You can’t program creativity

Everyone’s talking about programmatic and real time bidding (RTB) advertising. In case you don’t know these terms programmatic and RTB is a robotic way to control and optimize ad spend that is highly targeted. When you start to load a web page your browser details and your cookie details are sent to a market place and ad impressions are purchased on a visitor by visitor basis. This is all done in 100 milliseconds.

Here’s an example: Bob likes sports, he visits ESPN frequently and his last Amazon purchase was a football. This information is stored in Bob’s cookies. Bob uses Safari as his browser. Safari users tend to be more techy and have more disposable income. A sports retailer has noticed that their mobile app has the most downloads between 6pm and 10pm on Tuesdays. The retailer would like to optimize their ad spend to generate the most mobile app downloads. So, Tuesday nights a programmatic campaign targets sports loving, Safari browser using people who made a sports purchase in the last 30 days.

Sounds spooky? Welcome to the modern world of digital marketing.

But a recent study showed that content marketing drives three times more leads than buying a SEM campaign. Why is this? Probably due to advertising overload. On the web we have become inured to ads. I have been on Facebook for 8 years. They know a lot about me. And yet I think I’ve clicked a Facebook ad once, maybe twice. And since it’s estimated that 35% of all adds are now served by programmatic systems it’s guaranteed that I have been exposed to the most targeted of ads thousands of times. But I don’t click. I’m sure graphic designers and marketers spent untold hours trying to make the most compelling display and text ads, but the pure fact that they are ads makes them entirely forgettable. Ironic, no?

But if a product or service had a compelling video or a blog post I would read, watch and maybe even click. If the content showed some creativity and thought I might click. If this content went out of it’s way to NOT sound like marketing or just a page to boost SEO results I might click. Even in this age of big data and software eating our jobs and driverless cars we crave humanity in marketing. 

Think of Facebook as a cocktail party.

I was at a wedding once on Cape Cod and the bride and groom had rented out a house for their close friends to stay at and party for 2 days leading up to the big event. One of the guests was a marketing manager for Coors. When she arrived she brought with her 10 cases of Coors products and started stocking the party coolers with them, even though the hosts had already selected other beer brands for the guests to drink. She brought out Coors t-shirts and started handing them out to the guests. She wore Coors branded clothing every day, but thankfully not at the wedding itself. It was completely inappropriate behavior for a small gathering of friends and downright obnoxious for a wedding. If I didn’t already think Coors products were awful (which I did) I certainly had an adverse opinion of the brand after this event.

And yet it’s this approach that a lot of companies use when marketing on Facebook.

Now, if that same Coors marketing manager had just been a normal guest and in the course of conversation had mentioned a new microbrew they were coming out with or had chatted me up on Coors’ environmental efforts knowing I was interested in corporate responsibility that would have been perfectly fine. I would have listened and perhaps her message might have resonated with me.

This is the approach companies and brands need to take with Facebook. Be conversational. Be informational without being super market-y. Bring value in the form of support for questions or issues. Bring hard benefits to the forum in the form of coupons or discounts. Be fun with sweepstakes or contests.

Be the life of the party.

Brilliant graph

social media expert perceptions

Click the image above for a most interesting article on customer vs. company perceptions of social media in e-commerce. The full article can be found here.

Open letter to Groupon pt. 2

Dear Groupon,

In my last open letter to you in February of this year, Groupon, I wrote that in a few years you’d look back on the $6 billion buy out offer from Google and kick yourself for not accepting. Well, maybe it only took a few months for the self booting to begin, the interwebs do move with the alacrity of a jungle cat. According to Hitwise you suffered a 50% decline in traffic from June to August of this year while Living Social saw a 27% increase over the same period. Facebook launched and then killed their shopping coupon efforts due to lack of interest. Coupon sites in general have seen a 25% traffic drop off in traffic. Rumors are that merchants have negotiated down your 50/50 revenue split to 80/20.  And finally, Google launched their coupon efforts. More competition, less traffic, user overload, lower margins…not looking too good.

Six billion. You passed on six billion dollars. Oh, the hubris.

OK, I’ll stop now. Kicking a man when he’s down and all that. Just a few more words for you Groupon….


Vaya con Dios,


Social media worth it? Pt. 2

A recent study of 2010 holiday purchasers gave us some really impressive numbers about the power of social media.

Of those that left a negative post on social media about a product or retail experience 62% were contacted by the company responsible. Of those contacted 33% deleted their original negative post and 32% turned around and left a positive review.

A few weeks back I posted about whether social media was worth it. Well, I’d say these numbers bear it out. With a simple tweet or facebook post you can change the minds of 65 out of 100 angry customers. Talk about cheap and effective customer service.

An open letter to Groupon:

$6 BILLION dollars wasn’t enough? $6 billion, with a “b”. The YouTube guys got $1.6 billion back in 2006 and they seem perfectly content padding around the mansion in gold plated bunny ear slippers. $6 billion buys a lot of Skittles and beer.

Here’s why you’re going to look back on this in a few years and wonder how you could have been so short sighted.

1-      Your business model has a very low barrier to entry. I currently subscribe to your emails and Living Social’s emails. The other day a 3rd email newsletter normally not geared to coupons had a social deal in it. Anyone can get in on this game. Expect a dozen competitors in your space by the end of 2011 including….

2-      Google. You teased and poked the bear, he’s awake, he’s pissed and he’s hungry. Scorned, Google is building out their own coupon / social platform. I’m sure you heard. Combining their 70% search market share with a decent user interface and you’ll never compete with the variety and specifically targeted deals they could come up with. They know that I search for Mexican restaurants in zip code 10003 on Wednesdays – BOOM! A perfectly tailored deal for half off a pitcher of margaritas is sent to me. Do you know what kind of deals I would like to increase my take rate? Clearly not, because your deals are 93% girly stuff I would never buy. I remember even telling you I was a dude when I signed up and yet you keep serving me coupons for spa treatments and stretch mark removal services and pole dancing classes. Dude, I’m A DUDE!

But Google is not infallible. Let’s say that they screw it up and their proprietary platform goes nowhere like Google Video or Buzz or Wave. They have so much cash they’ll just buy up all the coupon sites that did get it right and infuse them with enough cash to crush you. What do you think $6 billion smells like? Imagine what it smells like because that’s as close as you’re going to get to that kind of money again.

3-      The internet has a short memory and a hugely inflated sense of worth. This past summer Lycos was sold for the 3rd time. Remember Lycos? No? It was a search engine. A search engine that sold for $12.5 billion in 2000, $95 million in 2004 and recently sold again for $36 million.  I suspect in 3 years time Groupon will be spoken in the same breath as Alta Vista, Friendster, MySpace and

You’ve got moxie, Groupon. I have to give you that. But I think you watched The Karate Kid a few too many times, because often in life the little guy doesn’t win.

Good luck,


Is social media worth it?

Those of us in online marketing have been wondering for years whether social media is worth it. Oh, don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying that social media is a fad. No, my friends, the era of sharing is certainly here to stay. But for businesses is it worth it? Is there a return on spending X amount of man hours on keeping a twitter account lively or a Facebook page engaging?

I’ve read studies that put the value of a Facebook fan at $12 dollars and others at $0.12 cents. We’ve all heard about using Twitter as an alternative customer support tool and keeping customers happy. But I can tell you from personal experience that Twitter can also be used as a megaphone for an unhappy customer. And bad or scandalous content is going to be shared far more than good content. Which of the following do you think would be more likely to be retweeted?

A: The new Purina Oatmeal flavor Mango Madness tastes great!
B: The new Purina Oatmeal flavor Mango Madness tastes like flakes of card board  floating in dumpster juice!

Sharing can be daring.

But, there’s one reason why a social media presence must be actively maintained: they give good SERP.

Google me. Do it. Google “Chris Hedick” right now. Where is Twitter and Facebook in the results? Right at the top. Because of Google’s smothering love of social media sites a good social media strategy is essential.

But Chris? What’s a ‘good’ social media strategy? Don’t I just put up a Facebook fan page and let people rave about my company or product? No.

A good social media strategy has structure. A good social media strategy has a content strategy. Here’s one that I recommend:

1- Do your keyword research. An earlier post on end user vernacular got into this a little bit, but it’s worth repeating. Find out how your users are searching. This is more art than science but by combining Google Adwords, internal search analytics and even Twitter itself you can quickly find out how people talk about your product. I consulted for a friend who was helping to clean up some of this housing crisis debacle. Two terms were being used all the time in the media to explain the situation of the people he was trying to help: “underwater mortgage” and “upside down mortgage”. Which to concentrate upon? Plug ‘em into Twitter and see how frequently there was a tweet on each. The more frequently used term is the winner.
2- Now that you know how your users speak, talk to them in that language via social media. Use those terms in posts, YouTube videos and tweets in a subtle and natural way.
3- Have a blog or landing site specifically devoted to receiving people interested in those terms. Then make sure that the social media content links to that blog or other content that is relevant to the terms. And make sure that the blog has a content strategy that emphasizes those terms.
4- Link out as well. Let’s say you make marsh mellows. Doing some research revealed that the number one reason people buy marsh mellows is to make Rice Krispie treats. Linking your blog post about Rice Krispie treats to a Rice Krispie recipe site isn’t going to hurt you, it’s only going to up your SERP rank for the term “rice Krispie treats”.

So to answer the question “is social media worth it?” I’d have to give a qualified and yet emphatic yes.

Social Media is a powerful weapon that can carefully and powerfully target like a sniper rifle. But just throwing stuff up on Twitter without a well thought out strategy is like trying to hit your customer at 500 paces with a Nerf gun.