WeChat, the Miracle Marketing App

At the beginning of my university studies, I was introduced to a mobile phone application that has grown to become one of the most powerful marketing tools the world has seen today.

After studying a semester of Mandarin and befriending a number of Chinese students, I found that almost none of my new friends used Facebook; even if they did have a Facebook profile, their page was mostly dormant, inactive. To practice our language skills and keep in touch, we used WeChat.

https://lh3.ggpht.com/zC5Q4atR1JytzagSPIPAg-z4uItJGsTVjZHvf9nSeGdwrwnuPPW_OqMk6FAI3DJvzQ=w300

Source link: click here (Google play download page)

At first, WeChat looked to be a simple messaging application, like WhatsApp; thusly I have often referred to WeChat as a Chinese version of WhatsApp. Since downloading the application however, it has grown to become much more than a simple messaging substitute.

Today, WeChat is what we may refer to as a super-app. Once you explore the various features of WeChat, you’ll find that it can be used in so many ways that it competes not only with WhatsApp, but also with Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn, Paypal…the list is still growing.

In my current feed of WeChat, friends post images to showcase their day, make a comments on their friends weekend adventure, advertise a clubbing event in Hong Kong, offer a discount on health supplements, and even advertise property for rent and sale. User-generated content on WeChat feeds cover the same content as the biggest players in Western social media do, including both social and business networking.

As a result of the diverse range of content that can be created and shared through WeChat, there are ample opportunities for companies in data collection and market research.

Take six minutes to watch this video by the New York Times to see exactly how ubiquitous and integrated in the lives of Chinese citizens this application really is.

Source: New York Time article

As per the video, before WeChat does take a hold of the broader international market, it surely must create an appeal that guarantees the privacy of its users and their personal information.

Can WeChat make the move to the rest of the world? The image presented in this video to me is breathtaking; technology seamlessly integrates with our lives and enhances our ability to stay connected with friends, all the while acting as a platform to connect buyers and suppliers in various markets.

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SEO Tactic: Small Email Subscription Boxes

Commercial electronic messages are everywhere; anywhere a screen is placed, an advertisement will follow.

Making an advertisement or proposing an offer in a way that breaches the law, such as the Spam Act,  can result in hefty fines and severely damage to your brand reputation.

In my own experience with opt-in email marketing, I’ve never had a bad encounter. In receiving  messages and afterwards trying to opt-out of a subscription, it is clear to me that businesses are abiding by the Spam Act.

Just having a quick look through my phone I found two good examples of a functional, user friendly opt-out text response; one required the recipient to respond STOP, the other a simple X. Since replying to both messages accordingly I haven’t received another message.

However, there is another aspect of email-marketing which still bothers me; subscription interstitials.

Interstitials are advertisements that appear while a user moves from one page to another; for email subscriptions, interstitials are that annoying box that pops-up and asks you to sign up to email marketing, allowing you access to the page only after you click X or “no thanks.’

In one very cheeky example, I found a guitar-tab website whose subscription interstitial could be closed by pressing a button stating “No thanks, I’m not looking for [the] easy way.”

In my experiences, the range of annoying tactics used to induce users into providing their email address is endless; some subscription pop-ups follow you down the page, block half the screen as you read an article, become smaller and hide down the side bar…the list goes on.

There is however another penal code, one that is dictated by the consumer’s tolerance threshold, and is reinforced by the algorithms of search engines.

Google has utilised user insights to inform its algorithm that intrusive interstitials are bad for user experience, particularly on mobile phones. Using intrusive interstitials (store locators, email subscription pop-ups and chats) will lower your websites ranking; to optimise your websites and improve your ranking, it would be very wise to create smaller, easily removable interstitials.

Below, Search Engine Roundtable gives a good example of how to create a user friendly subscription box.

For email subscription boxes, I prefer those used on blogs and websites where it is fixed on the page, and not an interstitial at all. Maybe interstitials and pop-up subscription boxes should be avoided altogether in website design? Or should business merely re-design interstitials and reel back on their frequency, limiting them to home pages only?

Data, Analytics and Youtube

Youtube is an immense and dynamic media platform. It is an interactive space where consumers and producers seek out and create an endless expanse of content, allowing the website to reach far out into thousands of different markets all over the world, all at once.

The result of this large network of markets hosting their content on a single platform is a rich and valuable body of customer data.

https://s3.amazonaws.com/digitalmarketer-downloads/website/content/uploads/2015/04/youtube-analytics-img3.jpg

Image source

Youtube as a producer itself is a brilliant example of how data and analytics can be used to understand and respond appropriately to online consumer behavior.

If you have used Youtube for as long as I have, which is around a decade or more, you have most likely witnessed the evolution of the website from its early days to its current modern design; of course, this process is never ending, and Youtube is always experimenting with and implementing new features to enhance user experiences and generate more value.

Over the years almost every aspect of the Youtube website has changed; the position of the video on the screen, the comments section, the recommended videos list and the subscribe button… the list goes on.

From the digital marketer’s perspective, it is clear why Youtube makes such changes, even for the small and almost imperceptible tweaks that occur. In the example of the subscribe button, it is red, and for a good reason; many red vs green A/B tests have been conducted showing that red subscribe buttons have a higher conversion rate than green.

https://symposium5562.files.wordpress.com/2017/04/dc552-youtube-subscribe-button-psd-photoshop-july-2013.png?w=1100

Image source.

As Youtube and all other successful websites have done so, you can rest assured that every other aspect of what you see on the screen is tested in relation to conversion rates, click-throughs and other metrics that marketers use to measure performance.

When it comes to content and what is placed on the website, think of how everything is organised; titles, tags, comments, categories, video length, channels and their affiliated channels, in-video links ect. This is search-engine-optimisation in action.

https://lh5.googleusercontent.com/4NHTBRNFS2XqU1uaWSNFmFBKV58-HP-tSuqup-xsSA2cjNoXvIQItHmQZCLirEpn2oI-LRdIJw=s640-h400-e365

Image source

Moreover, all of these features indicate the existence of virtual markets and sub-markets contained within Youtube. Tags and comments for instance can lead a key word search to bring up the most relevant video for the searcher; the consumer is then matched to their market via the relevant videos.

Google now owns Youtube, and Youtube as a result has benefited from its analytics feature; data showing subscribe conversion rates, traffic, demographic statistics, likes/dislikes ratio all contribute to a body of data that marketers can use to better understand their audience. Comments as another example are a great opportunity for producers to asses their engagement, whether positive, negative or other, with page and video visitors.

All in all, it is clear just how powerful Youtube is as a marketing platform, a fact highlighted by the recent boycott of the website by many large companies; the commercial world cares a lot about this platform and they want it to be used correctly, so they are now demanding that Youtube improves its ability to align advertisers with their target audiences.

Effective Advertising: Machines beat Humans

AdRoll recently published their 2017 “State of Performance Marketing” report, which among many findings, showed that marketers are more than ever focusing their budgets on programmatic advertising.

In order to enhance your conversion rates, visibility, and overall connection with customers online, the first tools you may opt to use are search engine optimisation and pay-for advertising.

For instance, pay-per click advertising is an excellent way to reach your customers, as it allows you to bid for and acquire the right advertising spaces. That is, after having done thorough research on your target market, what they are searching and where they are searching, you can effectively display your website and its content when someone has executed a relevant search.

In this process however, we are relying on our own analytical judgements and are therefore prone to error. This is where programmatic advertising comes into play.

Programmatic advertising is a process of buying and selling online ad space with the assistance of software. This form of software utilizes customer data to ensure that money is not wasted on ineffective advertising space; the right target customers are met with suitable advertisements, as the programmatic advertising software systematically chooses the best ad spaces for you.  (source: http://www.stateofdigital.com/what-is-programmatic-marketing-buying-and-advertising/ – a really informative page on this topic!)

The entire process from the buying of space to the placement of your advertisement is automated, relying on hard customer-data linked to your brand, ensuring that your online advertising is as precise and effective as possible.

Have a watch of this video from Interactive Advertising Bureau to gain an idea of how programmatic advertising raises the efficiency of online advertising.

Essentially, programmatic advertising is different as it relies on computers and algorithms to automate the process of ad purchase and placement.

Does this mean marketers and advertisers will lose their jobs to computers? Digiday suggests no, that we should see programmatic advertising and other automated processes as beneficial to marketing. With the aid of such tools, marketers have greater flexibility to focus their efforts on tasks where the human touch is needed.

What are your thoughts? Is technology advancing to the point of automating our entire profession as marketers? Or is the human touch on marketing indispensable no matter how capable and efficient our technology becomes?

Social media; the future of marketing?

Late last year, the Association for Data-driven Marketing and Advertising (ADMA) held a debate between Adam Ferrier and Mark Ritson on the question “Is social media the future of marketing?”

Rather than make comments on who won the debate and whether their position is the correct one, I would like to take some time to synthesise each position and bring focus to the underlying, focal message of their arguments.

Mark Ritson is often involved in discussions, both on and offline, surrounding the relationship between marketing and the trends and opportunities that the digital age provides. Ritson’s position highlighted, with the use of statistics, that the majority of social media users don’t follow brands on these platforms, and that overall, social media is not irreplaceable as a tool for finding, analysing and reaching customers.

Overall, Ritson’s body of arguments show the bias that we have for social media in marketing activities, and that while it is a useful tool, it is still just a tool.

Ritson is not saying that we should ignore social media, but rather that we should bring our focus on all areas of communications and research; traditional marketing research should complement social media and vice versa, and social media as a communication tool should complement other modern and traditional touch-points that form Integrated Marketing Communications.

Ritson would like business and marketers to dispense with the traditional vs digital dichotomy. Here, we must learn that they are symbiotic and part of a broad marketing process that is strengthened by both their uses.

Ferrier’s position draws attention to the power of social media, illustrating it as a more fundamental tool that acts as the the core driver of success for many modern businesses. Using examples such as Uber and Airbnb in the sharing markets, Ferrier effectively shows that social media in many ways deserves attention that labels it as something more than just a communication tool. Certainly, social media is indespensible in a world where non-physical businesses are more and more the most valuable in comparison to their physical-assets-rich predecessors.

Overall, social media is a powerful, unique communication tool and business resources that is in many ways unmatched in its ability to leverage the success of new, digital business models.

Right now, social media does appear to be the the future of marketing, but it should not be seen as the entire future; marketers should heed the advice of Ritson and remain level-headed in their work, drawing themselves away from the parochial view of the digital/traditional dichotomy, and never neglect the arsenal of other tools and skills that have been developed by marketers over the course of marketing history.

https://www.marketingmag.com.au/hubs-c/social-media-head/ ; This is the main resource used for this post, an article that summarised the debate and its outcome on MarketingMag.com.

Do you pay for your music?

Digital marketing empowers businesses and individuals to create value where it otherwise would not have existed; a great example of this is the music industry.

if-soundcloud-then-spotify.png

Source: http://www.independent.co.uk/news/business/news/spotify-in-talks-to-buy-soundcloud-a7336656.html

With recent news of the music streaming service SoundCloud being pushed by the forces of its industry to consider selling itself for a few $100 million dollars short of its valuation from three years ago ($700 million), it is clear just how dynamic digital marketing can be in its creation and evolution of customer value.

Companies such as Apple Music and Spotify provide music to a population of customers who, in part, may have migrated from a black market; in marketing terms, a space within the internet that originally wiped out value in the music industry, has now been weakened by a new industry that redefines the way we consume music, bringing some of the lost value back to the content owners.

With the advent of mobile phone applications, roaming internet data and the creation of online music databases, music listeners, many of whom may have previously downloaded music through file sharing websites, are now paying for access to music. Why buy one album, when you can buy access to all albums?

In the competitive forces framework of Michael Porter (video link), the suppliers of the music industry, the record labels, have  gained more power in the industry as pay-for music streaming services recaptured some of the value that was lost to illegal file sharing websites.

Digital marketing is to thank for, for it has clearly created value where it otherwise would not have existed. Customers now have high quality, limitless access to legally distributed music, and record labels and artists aren’t losing out as much as they were before.

As SoundCloud is facing an uncertain future and Spotify itself begins to face brutal arithmetic of its own, what is the next spectacle of value that digital marketing will bring to the music industry? Will collated music streaming services remain popular, or will value shift to some other area in the marketplace?

The Power of Social Media Influencers

Wear Chanel No. 5, and you may just end up smelling like Brad Pit.

Source: http://stylecaster.com/beauty/vintage-chanel-no-5-ads/

The use of a celebrity, or well-known figure, as a spokesperson to promote a brand or product is an old-school and widely used marketing tactic. The link to the picture above shows a list of celebrities who have endorsed Chanel No. 5, demonstrating this history.

Typically, such an influencer would be an actor, professional sportsperson or media personality, a person whose image can be aligned with a product or brand to enhance its image and likability.

The digital age has expanded the reach of fame, granting status to ordinary people adept at marketing themselves or their lifestyles online. This trend has resulted in a new sort of brand/product advocate called a ‘micro-influencer’ or ‘social media influencer.’

Put simply, a micro-influencer is a minor celebrity whose fame is based online, such as a Youtuber with a sizeable subscriber base or an Instagram personality with thousands of followers, who spreads positive  information (via image, video or text) about products, services and brands.

A great example of effective use of micro-influencers to promote a product is the recent notable success of two young entrepreneurs hailing from Queensland.

The DIY teeth whitening company HiSmile, founded by Nik Mirkovic and Alex Tomic, started with an investment of only $20,000 and turned over $10 million in just 18 months of operation; the company’s initial success was leveraged by its use of an Instagram page featuring a seemingly endless stream of social-media influencers featuring their product.

https://cdn.shopify.com/s/files/1/0916/4078/t/21/assets/HiSmile_HomePage_Diagram_v2-min.jpg?1366363080936288409

Source: https://hismileteeth.com/

What is the lesson to be learned from the success of these two young men? Know your target market and the platform they’re engaging with!

HiSmile identified their target market, and reached it via aligning its brand with micro-influencers already engaged with their desired demographic.

How else could such a small company expect to reach such impressive revenue figures in so short a time? Are there platforms similar to or better than Instagram that you’d recommend for use in the launch of a business?