By virtue of a frighteningly powerful ‘next’ button, users can scroll through other users as they sit in front of their webcam-enabled PCs. Not bothered about the person you’ve landed on? Hit ‘next’. Want to chat? Go ahead, but remember they can hit next at any moment too.
It is a quite remarkable thing; the brutal judgmentalism of it. For anyone is but a click away from being removed from your life forever, and you theirs. For those of us interested in such things, Chat Roulette represents a fascinating peak in the evolution of social media. For others, it seems a new opportunity to indecently expose one’s self but there’s no accounting for people.
For a certain, shameful period (about a week) in my life, I added the ‘Hot or Not’ application to my Facebook profile. Like Chat Roulette – though much more directly – it invites its users to make instant judgements on the attractiveness of others. Hit next, rate the picture you see out of ten and move on. While taking a briefly obsessive interest in my own ratings, I also grew an horrific indifference to the effect my ratings might be having on their recipients. Oh, well, they’ll never know it was me and they should have put up a better picture.
Chat Roulette is Hot or Not on steroids for, apart from the instant judgement you face on the basis of your, erm, face, there is also the constant assessment of your ‘chat’ entertainment value. No time to make up for a boring opening, no time for anyone to get to know the ‘real you’.
Dragging this back to digital marketing, I’m wondering what the implications might be. Perhaps brands should employ armies of participants to hold up their slogans for others to stumble across? Perhaps it’s an opportunity for a new lease of life for the stand dollies one still sees at trade shows to chat on behalf of your product? Or perhaps Chat Roulette is just a great metaphor for the power that we, as customers, now wield. If brands want to engage with us, they have to accept that our attention span is tiny and our ability to go somewhere else almost infinite. And we make brutal use of our power to ‘hit next’.
So what lessons might Chat Roulette hold?
1. Be in it to win it. If you’re not on Chatroulette, you can’t be stumbled upon. If brands aren’t present in their customers’ networks, they have no opportunity to engage.
2. Be valuable. To gain that one second’s worth of dither before they press next, you have to do or be something interesting. Brands must provide value – entertaining or useful content and applications, for example – to gain the right to their customers’ attention.
3. Engage. When a Chatroulette user has gained the rare opportunity for conversation, it’s no use coming over all shy and retiring. Brands that aren’t used to talking with their customers have to learn. If you’re not sure, take a lesson from good old Zappos. This brilliant example of a real Zappos online customer service conversation shows that just being human might be a great place to start.
That’s it. Hit ‘next’.
Image Credit: gordontarpley
Well, not quite, but Facebook has now overtaken Google to make it the number one most visited site in the US. Back in January I suggested that Social will soon become bigger than Search and I think that this will very soon be the case.
I think I speak for many people when I say that Firefox is getting slower and slower, I for one have been putting up with the sluggish performance for a while now, having to settle for using the lighting fast Google Chrome for less analytical SEO work.
The launch of Google Chrome Extensions has now meant I have now finally been able to leave the sluggish Mozilla Firefox behind and speed my working life up with Google Chrome, yippee!
Switching to Chrome isn’t without its bad points. There are still certain functions that you may need Firefox for, but I’m now able to do the majority of my day to day SEO work in Chrome, here are the essential extensions and plug-ins required to get the best out of Chrome for SEO.
I spent the weekend before last searching the internet for news about the well-being of members of my extended family who live just outside Concepcion – the epicentre of the huge earthquake that rocked Chile on 26 February. I was surprised to find that Google quickly became completely irrelevant to my search for information. It just wasn’t fast, micro or specific enough for my needs. At some point, they’ll get their social search fine tuned and consistent, and they’ll kick the spam merchants out of Google News, but until then Google fails big time when it comes to meeting an immediate, urgent need for micro-level information about something that has just happened. Read on to find out how social media networks succeeded where Google failed.
The urgent need for news
In January I wrote about the way that social media was helping with the aid efforts in the aftermath of the earthquake in Haiti. I had no way of knowing at the time that just a few short weeks later I’d be using my personal social networks to try and track members of my own extended family caught up in an earthquake elsewhere in the world. But on Saturday morning I opened my eyes at about 8am and had a conversation with my husband (who was checking his crackberry – an early morning habit) that went something like this:
Him: “There’s just been a big earthquake in Chile – 8.8 on the Richter scale.”
Me: “Oh no.”
Him: “Epicentre in somewhere called . . . Concepcion?”
Me: “Oh god no. That’s where the family are!”
To cut a long story short, part of my extended family is Chilean: four generations – grandparents, children, grandchildren and great grandchildren who all live in Chiguayante, just outside Concepcion. Fourteen family members in total.
I spent the rest of the weekend glued to my computer as I took on the task of “social media monitoring” and quite a lot of “outreach” on Facebook and Twitter on behalf of the family, whilst others desperately tried the “direct marketing” approach of phoning and emailing.
We love data here at iCrossing and all the juicy profit driving insights you can pull from it but sometimes it’s difficult to turn that dry spreadsheet into a simple graphic that really illustrates your point. Recently a few nice tools have been released that we thought we’d share with you.
Think of pivot tables on steroids. This new, highly visual data manipulation technology from Microsoft allows you to quickly zoom in and out of the data, cut and filter what is being shown all in a deliciously visual fashion. I could write reams of text on this, but as it’s a visual tool, I recommend watching the video below.
Click here to try it out
Google Data Explorer
A nice little tool that lets you look at public data and easily trend it over time. Motion charts are a great way of discovering patterns in the data and see how various elements interplay. The video below shows
I attended London fashion Weekend on Saturday, it is my first year of attendance and from now on I will be going without a doubt every season.
London Fashion Weekend follows on straight from London Fashion Week, which is only open to people within the Fashion industry and is not only difficult but near impossible to acquire tickets to the fashion shows, with the likes of Bora Aksu, Erdem and Basso & Brooke showing their collections to name just a few.
We’re seeing a definite shift from travel companies just talking about social media to actively looking to spend money doing it. And when you consider the numbers it’s hardly surprising. That’s presenting some really interesting opportunities and challenges.
The challenges for brands
1) Social media spaces are not brand-friendly
Travel brands might want to really engage with customers through social media, but by its very nature this stuff is highly personal. A faceless brand justs feel totally out of place here. People unsurprisingly relate best to [real] people. What we are seeing is the smarter companies starting to let the real people that work for them step out from behind their corporate brand-speak. To talk with their own voices. Jetblue in the USA and easyJet in the UK both use Twitter really effectively to help customers in a really personal and helpful manner.
2) Customers want unbiased information
Worse for brands, people want to deal with other people that they feel they can trust. In a direct customer services environment – like the twitter examples above – then contact with a real person who works for the company works well. But how about finding holiday ideas, getting inspiration for trips? Any information that has a brand associated with it will feel like a hardcore sales message. People will smell an ulterior motive. They won’t trust what they read.
3) Brands don’t really know how to be online publishers
Back in the old off-line days, travel companies published customer magazines, produced brochures, mailed out literature – but all of it by nature was promotional. Often marketers don’t really ‘get’ unbiassed content – they have ‘what’s the sales message’ built into their DNA. Their job is to sell more product. Nowadays on the social web – people are looking for unbiassed, credible information to help them decide what to do for their holidays. That’s a completely different environment and a completely different mindset.
I’m finding the idea of using a credible, experienced travel writer to create content for a brand increasingly appealing – in particular content that sits in a more social environment where people are in the planning phase of booking their holiday. Using an expert travel writer offers several advantages:
If I’m reading content on a blog hosted by a travel brand about say, great ideas for romantic breaks in Prague I really won’t value recommendations that seem to come directly from the company. It will feel too much like someone is trying to sell me something. If it’s written by an unbiassed travel expert offering ideas and advice – with a profile that I can read and links to other pieces they have written about romantic breaks elsewhere – then the content immediately feels more genuine. By association the company wins as well.
As I said above, people relate to people. I’m much more likely to engage with content (and potentially go on and purchase) if I feel a connection with a real person writing it – someone a bit like me, someone who understands my needs, someone whose opinion I feel I can trust.
3) Great ideas
This socially-enabled online publishing world can be bit of a scary space for marketers. For web-journalists who know their stuff (and not all do!) it’s home. A genuinely web-savvy travel writer can work with a marketer to come up with great ideas that will really work for their customers. Great ideas that are developed primarily with a user in mind rather than a sales target. Ideas that will foster engagement and conversation.
Here are a few different examples of this idea in practice:
- VisitFlorida’s use of expert writers with specific interests
- Fiona Hilliard writing the Glove Box blog for Argus Car Hire
- Lara Dunston and Terence Carter, writing the Gran Turismo blog for HomeAway Holiday-Rentals
Some I think work better than others. What do you think?
Paid Site Links?
In November last year, Google, introduced paid site links to their ever-growing list of ad formats.
This format produces some definite PPC benefits; you take up more SERP real estate increasing CTR, the links can allow expensive terms to be shown against cheap brand traffic, you can deep link which increases usability and conversion rates.
The Impact on Paid Search
Since implementing these site links for a large travel brand recently the CTR on brand terms rose by 14 points. Not only did this drive a huge amount of additional traffic, the resultant improvement in quality score decreased the CPC by 17%. Truly a paid search dream, more traffic at a lower CPC.
How is SEO Affected?
As the paid ads now took up more space and were receiving more clicks from the brand related queries, it is unsurprising that brand clicks on SEO decreased significantly. In fact it was approximately halved. On high value terms the negative impact of this would appear huge if considered in isolation to paid search.
Analysis in Synergy
The key questions around this type of activity are not simply around the impact on visits, but also on revenue. Overall between the 2 channels the clicks increased by 12%. The increase in revenue was even more pronounced at 20%.
Look at the Whole Picture
These results highlight the important of SEO and Paid search being run in synergy. Without access to the paid search data some SEOs would have been screaming for the site links to be taken down. Similarly without understanding the decline in natural traffic SEMs could have been losing cash overall yet been totally blinded by their own perceived gains. By looking at the whole picture we were able to deliver true value to the client.
It’s been a while since my last taste of snowy alpine goodness and even longer since my last post on Connect and so thought I would get myself back in the swing of things with a post combining two of my favourite endeavours; snowboarding and paid search.
Now, I appreciate that to some people the connection might not be immediately apparent, and others may even think it tenuous, but bear with me and all will become clear. And if, like me, you very much like paid search and snowboarding, then you’re in for a treat!
Now, without further ado…5 ways in which you can use snowboarding best practice to improve your PPC ROI:
Coming from a PPC background, it was quite interesting to see what was happening on the other side of the digital spectrum, at SES on Wednesday. While most of the SEO technical aspects were quite new to me, I did come away with an interesting thought, which I think applies equally to SEO and PPC (and perhaps all other forms of digital marketing); evolution, change and adaptability. And before anyone thinks that I stumbled into a Darwin Expo, here’s what Maile Ohye, Senior Developer Programs Engineer from Google had to say.
Google is evolving. Ever since Google has started unleashing new products (involving search) like One Box results, local business listings, universal search across all verticals; image results, real-time results, news results, video and many others, organic results are slipping to a lower position on the first page of search results. However, Maile was keen to mention that Google looks at SEO as a partnership.
A key part of SEO is to evolve with Google. This could include optimising local results on Google maps, including images and videos on the website or having a social media strategy, amongst others. Infact a very important blog post written way back in 2007 by Kevin Newcomb, Search Engine Watch, highlights this integrated aspect of SEO.
All this might seem like a lot to do, but Julian Sambles, Head of Audience Development, Telegraph, is of the opinion that it is easier to wait and see how the audience (users) react to the new landscape on SERPs before implementing new strategies. It is afterall the users who have to evolve and adapt to the huge amount of information being made available to them in such varied and rapidly changing forms.
Each search result is likely to be relevant to the user query, thus improving user experience and it is important for agencies to measure impacts of the new landscape on CTR of PPC ads and organic results. Afterall, paid search has also come a long way from static ads to ‘The Rise of Universal Paid Search’.
My main point is this; It’s important to accept that the search engines we’re all so reliant upon will change and evolve at a rapid rate (look at the amount of major changes in search alone over the last decade). Google in particular has released a whole host of new features recently, in a bid to safeguard its market share from competition. Some of these developments impact certain digital channels more than others. Ultimately, clients and their agencies need to have an integrated strategy so that the impact of search engine evolution is limited. Don’t place all your eggs (traffic) in one basket!
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