Wednesday, October 9, 2013

The Elusive ROI of Social Media

Social media ROI doesn't have to be elusive. Seriously.

Google Analytics has recently made it even easier to measure it. I promise.

Rather than seeing traffic sources you can now see "Acquisitions." Upon clicking on that head to "Channels" where your view should default to the default channel grouping. These are your sources such as, organic search, direct traffic and what do you know SOCIAL!

When you click on the social grouping you will see this beautiful table below.

  1. Set up your goals
  2. Apply a value to each
  3. Take your "goal value totals" - "your costs for social media (salary/rates for a community manager maybe, social ads, etc)"/"cost"

VOILA ... you have social media ROI!

Ok, Maybe It Isn't That Easy

Not in a bad way there is another factor that should be taken into account. Social sharing plays hugely into search engine optimization (SEO) [insert plug to post from a couple weeks ago about that exact topic] . From that default channel grouping you can review the same dashboard as above for your Organic Search and see how that also affects your goal values. This isn't to say social completely plays into your Organic Search, but it is a big driver.

AND we also have to think about the fact that someone may already be a customer, reached out on social media, had a pleasant experience and continues coming back (not necessarily through social channels) that can add to your ROI. Again, can't note that through Google Analytics, but I bet it happens. 

Who's with me that we should add an additional 20% to the values indicated above? Just kidding. Don't do that, but do be sure to mention to execs how SEO and brand/reputation building aspects of social media are valuable too!

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Oh Search, It is A-Changing

Do you remember a time when you may have put in a search term like "rain bucket" and gotten search results that didn't necessarily speak to a bucket that catches rain but maybe one or the other? So then you try different words, variations on phrases, etc? And how about trying to just find a number to contact someone about buying a rain bucket? Oh how far search has come.

Search is Smarter

With technology like that which built Watson - the computer that defeated some champions at Jeopardy!, the way Google performs has changed too. First came the knowledge graph and just recently announced is Hummingbird. Which according to this piece in the New York Times, the changes made for Hummingbird are because "Google users are asking increasingly long and complex questions and are searching Google more often on mobile phones with voice search."

Thanks to those lovely Apple commercials featuring some of our favorite celebrities and Siri, we expect to ask a question and get an answer. Rather than asking for a specific make and model of car and then finding what looks like a reputable site to find out the MPGs, we simply ask "how many mpgs does [insert make and model] get." (Maybe one day Google will even be able to pull up your actual car if you enter the first search phrase listed in the picture above - creepy but not likely very far off with the amount of data it collects on us).

Google says marketers only need to stick to original, high-quality content for SEO efforts with Hummingbird.

Search is More Efficient (sort of)

With the knowledge graph also came information directly in your search results, such as birth dates of public figures and similar people. Per the statement about the Hummingbird release, users are searching often on mobile phones and finding information directly in the search results can prove much more efficient then browsing to a possibly-not mobile friendly site to find a phone number. 

70% of smartphone users would agree. According to a survey of 3,000 smartphone users, 70% have used the click to call function in Google's mobile search results and 59% of them do it to "quickly" get a response/answer.

Only problem is that Google Places still can pull incorrect information and the click-to-call function just gets really frustrating for users and the business owners. I work in healthcare and this is a huge problem for hospitals with locations inside of locations. More on that, if you'd like.

This change makes it more important to be using Google Places for Locations and keeping Google+ business profiles updated.

Monday, September 23, 2013

WDF*P*IDF ... WTF?: A lesson in search engine optimization

If you work in public relations or communications, I hope you didn't have a huge conniption several weeks ago when Google supposedly killed PR. PR wasn't killed; only shady tactics to get backlinks were. Web addresses can still be listed in press releases, but must have a "rel=nofollow" tag. And you know what - it still can help your search engine optimization (SEO)!

When you think of SEO do you think of backlinks and/or keywords? I did back when I first got a lesson on SEO in March of this year. Keywords, backlinks and keyword density (indicated as the formula WDF*P*IDF or within-document-frequency's correlation to number of instances of a keyword in all other relevant documents in the underlying database) were big chunks in the SEO ranking factors. Not a bad mix of off-page (backlinks) and on-page (keywords) factors. But then Penguin 2.0 came out in May and Panda has been updating pretty regularly.

Google Takes Care of Google

Remember all those jokes about Google+ only being for Google employees? Well joke is on all of us.

From this great graph in Search Metrics "SEO Ranking Factors - Rank Correlation 2013" (released June 20, 2013)  it is pretty plain to see that social (in the orange) has a much higher impact than most other backlinking and all on-page factors. And surprise, suprise Google+ is numero uno!

Back to that nofollow tag though, it is right up there above all of the on-page factors now too.

And that's not all, now SEO experts think they have cracked the code to the new Google search carousel, and Google+ reviews (rating and quantity) seem to correlate to getting listed there! More on that from

What Can I Do?

  • Have your social profiles linked on your website
  • Use Google+
  • Use Google Places for Business
  • Continue getting your website listed (with the appropriate nofollow tag) on relevant sites that have similar or slightly higher ranking than you.
  • Pay attention to your review sites! Don't be shady and start buying up reviewers (Yelp is already on to you). Believe me it will happen, and Google will have to change all their algorithms again. If you are that shyster that causes the next "Google Killed PR" debacle, every person in SEO will hate you. Don't be the SEO shyster.

Thursday, January 17, 2013

The Great Native Advertising Debate

The debate on native advertising is, like native advertising, multifaceted. Even without fulling grasping what it is, people are debating if it useful for digital marketers. Let's take it step by step.

What is Native Advertising?

DigiDay posed this question to some digital execs. The responses are riddled with industry terms, like organic, monetization and ad units. Even worse, some used the word native in describing it; that would be an automatic DQ in Catchphrase.  However, I thought Ben Kunz’s response was wonderful. He says, “The intent is to have a paid message break out of the advertising clutter in a new way, by elevating it to appear like the real unbiased content users are seeking.” I think this is excellent because it covers native advertising on both social platforms and digital publications.

On Social Media

On social media, native advertising comes in the form of sponsored stories and promoted posts/tweets. This content is just like any other content a user would post to the platform/medium, except that the content owner PAID (so now we consider them an advertiser) to reach a larger audience.  

In a Spin Sucks article Gini Dietrich used an example of an Instagram campaign where users tagged photos of Jay Peak ski resort to #jaypeakresort. User-generated content is NOT native advertising. That is earned media. Initially, I thought that if a business had paid users to post the "user-generated" content that could be, but after analyzing more for this post, I decided that is still not native advertising. The native aspect means it, as Kunz explained, must appear like the content users are seeking on that platform. Because the medium is the one that controls the way content is displayed (and thus can be the one to manipulate it), they must be the one selling the native advertising. In the Jay Peak’s example, it would only be native advertising if Jay Peak paid Instagram to show photos tagged with #jaypeakresort higher on feeds (not just chronologically) for other similar tags, such as #ski and #snow. (Instagram, five percent of all profits from this new revenue-generating plan is a great way to say thank you.)

On Digital Publications

Digital publications’ native advertising is an advertorial. I’m sure you’ve seen them in magazines. An article about how a brand name pharmaceutical helped someone get their life back on track. It appears like a human interest piece, except that somewhere it must identify that it is paid content. Rather than the publication (the medium) selling reach, they are selling the space that appears like the content the user is seeking—articles in this case.

Is Native Advertising Deceptive?

For social media, native advertising is always clearly marked as a sponsored story or promoted tweet, so I don’t think it is deceptive in that aspect.  In the Facebook example image above, using a user's name walks a fine line, but Facebook offers you the option to opt out of being used in ads. As for digital publication’s native advertising, The Atlantic got some heat following a sponsored article from The Church of Scientology. It was marked as Sponsor Content at the top,just as an advertorial in a print publication would. However, the comments section seemed to be the rough spot for this native advertising. Would it be less deceptive if comments were turned off and another notice indicating that it is an ad (thus no comments necessary) replaced the usual comment box? 

Does Native Advertising Work?

As Dietrich said in her article,  nearly everyone knows how to “click past banner ads, watch the required five seconds of an ad before skipping it to go on to a video, click out of pop-up ads, and fast forward through commercials during television programs.” But having your ads appear where the audience is “listening” doesn’t necessarily mean they will attune to it. For instance, Pepto Bismol ads on my Facebook news feed are incredibly disruptive. This could be because the content choice for the medium was bad or just the wrong medium altogether. Using Pepto Bismol, let’s see how both of these matter in using native advertising.

Choosing the right content

Their picture of a big ol’ bottle of the pink stuff on my Facebook newsfeed turns me off, because I see it for what it is, an ad. A picture of an empty pizza box and someone holding their stomach may have pulled me in. My friends post status updates about their latest food conquests, so sharing similar content makes sense.

Choosing the right medium

Had I been on WebMD reading up on symptoms of heartburn, a sponsored article about Pepto Bismol treating heartburn would definitely be relevant. Seeing that big ol’ bottle of the pink stuff would almost be comforting to me in that medium.

Now that you know more about what native advertising is and how it works, will you try it?

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

The 4 Vices of Social Media

I LOVE social media.  I find the technology fascinating and continue to be amazed by the ability to make proximity meaningless in building relationships and making news. However, even from a young age (and before the days of social as we know it) when I frequented chat forums, I was aware of the dangers of social networking.  I’m not here to tell you about all those terrible things you can see on Dateline or Catfish. Instead, I’m going to talk about some of the social media vices many are afraid to talk about, because they do it a lot themselves … myself included.

Self Righteousness
The recent tragedy at Sandy Hook really opened my eyes to this behavior on social media.  As with any tragedy lately, everyone seems to get super sensitive to what everyone else has to say. Suddenly, my feed starts filling up with social media “experts” grilling a company or person over its unknowingly less-than-tactful tweet (those who are deliberately impolite, trolling, not included). What made this case even more eye-opening for me was that a well-respected social media expert posted a tweet later that afternoon referencing his team shooting their eye out like in The Christmas Story. He quickly deleted it, apologized and admitted it was in poor taste (and that it wasn’t automated). He asked people to go ahead and rake him over the coals (as many are so quick to do to others in similar situations). Instead, the one reply I saw come through read, “it’s okay; it happens to the best of us.”

Ad-hominem attacks
With so much information literally at your fingertips, why must people fall back on attacking a person rather than their ideas? I’d say that the name calling is no better than the childhood playground, but on the playground the kid has the gall to say it to the other kid’s face.

Deliberately taking the “social” out of social networking. Along with this you get those who are only concerned about the numbers in their network. See #1 in 5 Reasons Social Media is Ruining Marketing.

Life isn't always fabulous, but we tend to lead people to believe that via social media. I believe this is what Jenna Wortham discusses in “Digital Diary: Facebook and the Tedium of Success Theater” and this mother describes in this Facebook post that went viral:

Would you like to fess up to any other social media vices? Admitting is the first step!