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Social Media Marketing: 2012 In Review Pt. 2

Let’s take a look a handful of other trends that mattered in 2012 and how they will impact Dallas Internet marketing in the coming year.

Quality Content

That content is still (and always will be) king was not new to 2012, but we did see that truth embodied in a couple new ways. For example, in June, we saw Google purchase Zagat, a respected restaurant reviewer. Two months later, Google purchased Frommers, the venerable travel review publishers. Both deals were made to add trusted, well-written content to the user-generated reviews available across Google’s various platforms. Why? Because as helpful and abundant as user-generated reviews can be, people still prefer high-quality content written by pros. For companies, content should still be the primary focus — whether on their website or corporate blog, in their Dallas social media marketing strategy, or any other element of their Internet marketing presence.

The Pinterest Effect

If you haven’t checked out the nifty social media site Pinterest yet, well, for the sake of your wallet and your productivity, at least, you might not want to. Basically, the site is a series of what it calls “online pinboards,” where people post various things the ysee and like on the web — say, a recipe, a photo or a picture of a hip pair of pants — to their boards. Other Pinterest users who see the pin can either “like it” or re-pin it to their own boards, and the cycle continues. It’s simple. It’s addicting. It accelerates the spread of good ideas and attractive products.

Beyond Pinterest itself, its core concept should tell us a lot about the potential of Dallas social media marketing. Indeed, Facebook appears to be looking to incorporate a similar concept, albeit one that is more directly commerce-oriented — a “want button.”  For companies, this would make it easier to connect with wishlist-makers and window-shoppers and more effectively tap into the e-commerce possibilities of social media.

The Smartphone Revolution Continues

One trend that has almost become so obvious that it’s outsize impact can almost get overlooked at times is the continued meteoric, game-changing growth of smartphones. Just think about how bold, and even risky, the iPhone seemed when it was released less than six years ago. Now smartphones are quickly becoming synonymous with “mobile phone.” There are a zillion models available, and the price points keep getting lower and lower. Indeed, even Apple, typically happy to only sell products on the more expensive end of the spectrum, is apparently considering releasing a cheaper version of the iPhone. According to the research firm IDC, the smartphone market grew by an astounding 45.1 percent in 2012. The effect on Internet marketing is pretty clear: companies simply must have a mobile version of their website. Mobile websites also have all the benefits of an app for a fraction of the cost.


The Internet Marketing Benefits of an Instagram Website

instagram websiteLast week on the Masterlink blog, I talked about how Instagram is full of Internet marketing potential, even if it’s limited somewhat by its smartphone-only infrastructure.

Just like that, Instagram launched a website, giving each user their own nifty profile page (that looks a lot like their Facebook page). It’s pretty sharp looking, and it immediately makes the app significantly more useful for companies from an interactive marketing perspective.

For all its streamlined slickness, the app-only nature of Instagram made it frustrating to use in any way beyond its most basic functionality. It was unparalleled for quickly snapping, enhancing and sharing photos with your smartphone. And it was handy for mindlessly wasting time or checking in for a visual glimpse into the lives of my friends, family and handful of public figures I follow. But unless Instagramers elected to share their photos on, say, Twitter or Facebook, It was difficult to see them outside of the app. It was also difficult to save photos (on a phone, at least) or search for peruse older photos quickly.

Naturally, this also undermined its Internet marketing usefulness. Companies could only really connect with users if users went out of their way to follow them…  You couldn’t, say, recommend a brand easily to a friend or family member or message them privately.

Not all such features are or will be incorporated into the Instagram website — after all, it’s not trying to become a full-fledged social network with all the bells and whistles as Facebook. Facebook would not have purchased Instagram in the first place to then build it into a competitor. But new searching and sharing (new social, in other words) elements will be easier to add on the website compared to the app. And, more important, it’ll be easier to piggyback on Facebook’s existing social infrastructure.

Already, the site has several new features. According to the Instagram blog:

Your web profile features a selection of your recently shared photographs just above your profile photo and bio, giving others a snapshot of the photos you share on Instagram. In addition, you can follow users, comment & like photos and edit your profile easily and directly from the web. It’s a beautiful new way to share your Instagram photos!

Instagram web profile page for Free People

Instagram web profile page for Free People

Moreover, the larger photos alone would be highly valuable from an Internet marketing perspective. As we mentioned last week:

Pictures are indeed worth a thousand words. This is especially when trying to describe chaotic situations such as a hurricane, but it’s equally true when it comes to marketing. You could, say, write a few fancy lines about how delicious your restaurant’s new enchiladas are — or you could post a tantalizing photo that does the job a hundred times more effectively. Instagram makes it easy to take good photos and, perhaps more important, it makes it easy for your customers to do the same — and then share them with everyone they know.

There is, of course, some concern that the app will lose a little bit of its “cool” factor, but that’s inevitable anytime a hot new start-up goes mainstream. In truth, this kind of move has seemed inevitable ever since Instagram was purchased by Facebook for a hefty $1 billion last spring.  And for most companies, niche products have very little Internet marketing value. Plus, as we mentioned last week, Instagram is growing with extraordinary speed, and the website will make it accessible to non-smartphone users as well.

So consider getting on board. Our Dallas social media marketing experts can show you how.

Instagram Proves Its Worth – From Hurricanes to Dallas Internet Marketing

If you spent last Monday evening glued to your TV, smartphone or computer watching “Superstorm” Sandy crash ashore in New York and New Jersey — especially if the bulk of your news came from Twitter and Facebook and other social media outlets — you might’ve noticed a striking number of low-quality, but stylistically filtered photos dominating the coverage.

Instagram went mainstream during Sandy, proving both its widespread use and its worth for providing rich insight into what was a truly chaotic and (for people trapped in it) terrifying experience. In the past few years, the use of social media to illustrate and illuminate chaotic situations around the world — such as the Arab Spring, the earthquake in Haiti, and others — has increased dramatically. Twitter and Facebook, for example, made it easy for protesters to organize demonstrations quickly, and then provide real-time updates if things got hairy. Instagram isn’t the first social media tool to involve pictures; Twitter and Facebook, of course, made photo-sharing easy to do as well. Instagram has just streamlined the photo-sharing experience and highlighted how powerful social images could be.

The app is pretty simple: You take a photo with your smartphone. If so desired, you add a filter to the photo, editing and stylizing it in seconds. You share the photo — either solely within the Instagram social network (it’s most similar to Twitter — you follow people’s photo feeds and can “like” or comment on any shot, categorize photo descriptions with #hashtags, @reply or mention a user) and share photos to other social media accounts by syncing with your Twitter and Facebook..

During sandy, several sites quickly popped up collating photos shared in real-time by people affected by the storm. And, according to Forbes, mainstream media outlets found it useful as well:

As the storm closed in on the coast Monday morning, Time’s director of photography, Kira Pollack, rounded up five photographers from the region and gave them access to the magazine’s Instagram feed. The photographers it sought out – Michael Christopher Brown, Benjamin Lowy, Ed Kashi, Andrew Quilty and Stephen Wilkes — are all heavy users of the Facebook-owned social photo platform.

Using Instagram as the primary outlet for breaking news coverage was an experiment, Pollack says, but one motivated by necessity. “We just thought this is going to be the fastest way we can cover this and it’s the most direct route,” she says. “It’s wasn’t like, ‘Oh, this is a trend, let’s assign this on Instagram.’ It was about how quickly we can get pictures to our readers.”

The resulting collection on Lightbox, Time’s photography blog, was “one of the most popular galleries we’ve ever done,” says Pollack, and it was responsible for 13% of all the site’s traffic during a week when had its fourth-biggest day ever. Time’s Instagram account attracted 12,000 new followers during a 48-hour period.

Instagram has been popular with smartphone-toting hipsters and social media mavens for sometime, but the app first gained widespread notice when Facebook snatched it up for a cool $1 billion back in April. Since then, use of the app has exploded. In light of the publicity it received during Sandy, continued growth seems likely.

Naturally, as with any hot new app or social media site, it’s important to examine the social media marketing possibilities Instagram could provide businesses in the Dallas-Ft. Worth area. And in the coming weeks, we’ll take a closer look at some specific strategies companies could employ to tap into the app’s burgeoning power.

From a big picture perspective, however, the strength of Instagram is obvious: Pictures are indeed worth a thousand words. This is especially when trying to describe chaotic situations such as a hurricane, but it’s equally true when it comes to marketing. You could, say, write a few fancy lines about how chic your clothing boutique’s new spring collection is— or you could post a tantalizing photo that visually speaks for itself and promotes your brand a hundred times more effectively.  Instagram makes it easy to take good photos and, perhaps more important, it makes it easy for your customers to do the same — and then share them with everyone they know. The Dallas Internet marketing possibilities seem endless.

Facebook’s New Partnership – Tracking Purchases Made From Ads You See Online

Facebook made a big move last week that could change the dynamic of Dallas internet marketing — or spark a massive backlash.

According to The Atlantic Wire:

facebook digital advertising partnerIn an attempt to give advertisers more information about the effectiveness of ads, Facebook has partnered with Datalogix, a company that “can track whether people who see ads on the social networking site end up buying those products in stores,” as The Financial Times‘s Emily Steel and April Dembosky explainAdvertisers have complained that Facebook doesn’t give them any way to see if ads lead to buying. This new partnership is their response. The service will link up the 70 million households’ worth of purchasing information that Datalogix has with Facebook profiles so they can see if the ads you see changes the stuff you buy and tell advertisers whether their ads are working.

Specifically, Datalogix gets its information from retailers like grocery stores and drug stores who use loyalty discount programs to amass careful records of what their customers are buying. Datalogix’s site doesn’t list its partners, but from a Google search, it looks like the company has worked with CVS’s Extra Care card program.

For Facebook, this would help address some of the shortcomings in the company’s business model. The selling point behind Facebook is that user activity — especially listing preferences and interests and “liking” brands, products or services — can be tracked, measured, studied, and presented to companies interested in advertising on the site. All that data can be used to paint pretty detailed portraits of the consumer habits of Facebook users, and companies can target highly optimized ads at Facebook users who are most likely to become customers. At least in theory.

But Facebook has had trouble quantifying exactly how much a Facebook “like” is worth in advertising terms, and companies have started to sour ever so slightly on the advertising potential of the site. Google, meanwhile, has taken a similar but slightly different angle, using data gleaned from searches and other Google tools to build intricate consumer profiles. By adopting combining its user behavior with other sources of consumer data, Facebook would merge both approaches somewhat.

Inherently, there’s going to be lots of tension in this. On the one hand, no one wants to a company, government agency or any other entity watching their every move — especially when it comes to highly personal issues such as medical purchases. On the other hand, Facebook and Google insist repeatedly that all the data they collect is used only anonymously. Indeed, the backlash they’d face if it was revealed that they’d been abusing the data makes it plausible that they’re serious.

Moreover, from an advertising perspective, the vast potential of digital advertising fueled by all this data is mind-boggling. Companies will be able to spend their advertising dollars far more efficiently and reach far more likely-customers. Take, for example, the online advertising concept called re-targeting, which can only happen if websites are allowed to track the activities of the web users who visit them. Here’s how it works:

You visit Warby Parker, the online glasses seller. You look at a pair of glasses you might like to buy. You decide not to buy them right then. You leave the Warby Parker website. Later, on other Websites, you see ads with the pair of glasses you liked.

You see those ads because when you visited, your browser downloaded a tiny piece of software, called a “cookie,” that told the ad servers on sites using re-targeting that you had previously gone to warbyparker and looked at a certain pair of glasses.

Ads that are “re-targeted” in this way are clicked on a lot, and it’s pretty obvious why. Unlike most ads in banners on the Internet, re-targeted ads are ones that you may actually want to see because they are based on your demonstrated interest in a product.

The benefits of re-targeting for companies are obvious: Fewer ad dollars. More customers.  A stronger bottom line. Moral concerns notwithstanding, it will become increasingly difficult not to take advantage of these tools when competing companies are thriving with them.

The Marvelous, Uncomplicated Nature of Social Media Marketing

dallas social mediaRecently, the Associated Press issued new guidelines directing its journalists to avoid “liking” the pages of political candidates as doing so could be misconstrued as an endorsement.

According to the AP:

It is acceptable to extend and accept Facebook friend requests from sources, politicians and news-makers if necessary for reporting purposes, and to follow them on Twitter. However, “friending” and “liking” political candidates or causes may create a perception among people unfamiliar with the protocol of social networks that AP staffers are advocates.

This puts journalists in a tough spot who want to follow a politician’s Facebook updates. And it’s just one more example of the oft-awkward relationship between the media and social media.

For another example, you may have noticed an increasing number of journalists on Twitters will have disclaimers in the profiles saying something like “Retweets do not equal endorsement.” In other words, when that journalist will retweet something tweeted by someone else, it could be because it’s wise and the journalist actually does think it’s worth reading for all of his followers. But it also could be because the tweet was funny, or simply noteworthy, or utterly ridiculous and deserving of a derisive retweet.

Either way, retweeting a tweet is not necessarily the same as endorsing the content of said tweet.

This dynamic highlights a couple of the key questions about Dallas social media marketing: How valuable actually is a Twitter follower? How valuable are Facebook “likes” — and how much time and money should you invest in amassing them? It varies from business to business, and it’s hard to put an exact dollar figure on any aspect of it.

Still, for businesses, thankfully, the relationship between them and social media users who friend/follow/fan/like the company is a little bit more straightforward. When a social media user makes an “official” connection with your company — say, by liking your company on Facebook or following your company on Twitter — they’ve made it much easier for you to reach them with updates, deals, product announcements, and so forth.

Sure, the majority of Twitter users spend little to no time on the site, and Facebook users have all sorts of options for ignoring your company’s updates. And there’s no shortage of advanced Dallas Internet marketing strategies that social media can unlock.

But, on its most basic level, social media marketing is an unprecedented way to build an attentive audience of potential customers and clients. We can show you how.

Despite Wall St. Woes, Facebook Still Valuable on Main Street

Mark Cuban made news last week by announcing a (rare for investors) mea culpa about the huge investment he made in Facebook.  According to Web Pro NewsMark Cuban, who has been a steadfast supporter of Facebook throughout the IPO process, and an investor who purchased 150,000 shares of the company, is coming forward today to say he was wrong about the company.

[...] “I already sold it, I took my hit, my thesis was wrong. I thought we would get a quick bounce just about the excitement about the stock. I was wrong, and when you are wrong you don’t wait, you just get out. So I took a beating and left.” 

Here in Dallas, we pretty much love the ebullient billionaire. Even if he can be a little bit, er, entertaining at times from his courtside seats, he’s our billionaire. And no sports owner has done more for his team and his city than Cuban. This would be true (warning: chest-thump coming) even if the beloved Mavs hadn’t won the crown in the most satisfying way possible a year ago.

And there’s roughly 2.3 billion reasons why he’s earned Dallas-Ft. Worth’s attention when it comes to business and financial matters as well.

But it’s important here to make a distinction between Facebook’s success (or failure) on Wall Street and its Internet marketing value on Main Street — especially when it comes to social media marketing in Dallas.  If your goal for Facebook is stock returns, it could be deemed a failure. But if your goal is connect with vast numbers of potential new customers and clients, nothing has changed. It’s still an extraordinary tool.

Of course, there are links between the two realms. Unprofitability undermines the sustainability of Internet marketing tools —  and their long-term worth for businesses. But whether or not the social networking behemoth delivers a nice return to its early investors, its value to friends, families and businesses alike is proven and impervious to market whims.

If you read closely, Cuban is not condemning Facebook to long-term unprofitability or failure. Indeed, he said the site likely has long-term value in an article published the same day. Facebook just didn’t deliver the immediate returns he had expected and formed his investment strategy around, so he got out.

For businesses, the importance of Facebook isn’t going to decline any time soon. It’s still coming up with new, innovative ways to facilitate connections between businesses and potential customers. And it’s still being used by just about everyone you know.

What Social Good Has Your Company Done Lately?

“Social Good” is emerging as an important new category under the social media umbrella. As an extension of Social Media, this new platform is the ideal stage for companies and individuals to bring their charitable contributions and philanthropic efforts to the mainstream. Companies and individuals are using their “followers” to more effectively promote and market their altruistic causes through this new branch of social communication. People like you are starting and joining movements every day.

So what are companies doing? Proctor and Gamble illustrates how one company is using the “Social Good” platform to effectively promote their cause. With the launch of Proctor & Gamble’s GIVE HEALTH widget , bloggers can help P&G meet their goal of donating 100,000 days of clean drinking water by embedding the “Click to Donate Water” widget into their blogs. P&G will then donate a day of clean drinking water (2L) to a person in a developing country for every click bloggers receive from readers. This strategy quickly gained widespread acceptance throughout the digital community and has now gone viral. So far, click-happy readers and blogivation participants have already donated more than 20,000 days of water. So why did Proctor and Gamble decide to use “social good” to promote their cause? Why should companies not stick with traditional means of philanthropy?

Social Media, like it or not, is one of the fastest, cheapest, and most effective ways to quickly get your message or idea to the masses. By getting out in front of the “social good” movement, companies like Proctor and Gamble are not only effectively promoting their cause, but are also effectively promoting their company. The amount of publicity and P.R. that a successful “social good” campaign can generate for a company or individual is mind-boggling.

What are some other ways that companies are using “social good”? British Petroleum (BP) used “social good” to repair their tarnished image after their devastating oil spill, with great results. Up and coming companies are using “social good” campaigns to gain recognition, both name recognition and recognition as a company that is solidly positioned in social media. In this way, ”social good” is advertising. Companies are using social good to bring in new business.

Is Social Good a new way of doing business? Companies might feel they have more control over what they are trying to accomplish through Social Good. Instead of blindly giving money directly to an organization (e.g. United Way) and letting the organization decide where that money goes and what that money is used for, why not indentify something, a cause, or problem, and enlist people all over the world to contribute to this cause? This not only makes XYZ company look innovative but also shows people that XYZ company is a key player in social media, a good marketer, etc.

In order for a company’s ”social good” message to be effective, it needs support from not only the social community but also from the company’s employees, managers, etc. Moreover, an effective “social good” campaign can be a “bottom up” approach. Companies should encourage their associates to participate in social good using whatever means necessary, because the next effective “social good” movement could very well be originated by someone working in the mailroom.

What is your company doing to create a footprint in “social good”? How can a company challenge its employees to contribute? Is your company doing social good or is your company socially inept?

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