Social Media

This category contains 6 posts

Instagram: Does It Matter That It Will Make Money on Your Pics?


The new face of evil?

Instagram announced the company will soon begin using your content to sell targeted advertising products to the highest bidder. Does this bother you? Should it matter?

This new policy was announced in the firm’s recently published new Terms of Use, which go into effect on Jan. 16, 2013. The language that most irritates users states: “You agree that a business or other entity may pay us to display your username, likeness, photos (along with any associated metadata), and/or actions you take, in connection with paid or sponsored content or promotions, without any compensation to you.”

This recent announcement has created a virtual firestorm, with bloggers and pundits rising up in unison to trash the company. A recent article on Mashable accused Instagram of “signing your life away,” and even the hacker group Anonymous joined the fray, calling for a general boycott of the service unless the new terms are revised.

I don’t know about you, but I love Instagram. I downloaded the app more than a year ago (the service has been around for just over two years) and use it all the time. If I’m walking around the city and see something interesting, I snap a quick pic and upload it to the service, sharing it with my community. I guess deep down I always thought it would be cool to be a photographer, but never made the time to follow up on it, buy the equipment learn the art behind the art, so to speak.

Prior to the digital revolution, let’s face it, photography looked anything but easy or convenient. I recall friends who were photographers spending hours in darkrooms, not to mention plunking down thousands of dollars on expensive film, chemicals and other equipment. The rise of the camera-enabled smartphone changed all of that. Armed with a smartphone a fraction the size of camera from 20 years ago, any aspiring photographer could take amazingly high-quality pictures. With smartphone adoption rates in the US now more than 50 percent, a whopping total of 119.3 million people are now potentially part of the club.


Player haters?

For many professionals in photo industry, Instagram has been an annoyance from the start. A popular article appearing in the Guardian earlier this year accused the service of debasing photography, suggesting that its bevy of filters are in fact the antithesis of creativity, and make all pictures look more or less the same.  Personally, I thought this criticism was a bit unfair and smacked of professional snobbery. I wasn’t alone. A great article by Chas Edwards that appeared on Ad Age quipped that this predictable rant was what happens when members of a professional community are displeased because amateurs get a chance to compete.

So getting back to Instagram’s new terms, what they reveal is that Instagram is developing a revenue model, nothing more. This shouldn’t be too shocking to most readers. Let’s face it, it was inevitable that Facebook was going to want to monetize on its $1 billion investment at some point. While on one hand, I understand people are annoyed with the abruptness of this change, but on the other I think it’s much ado about nothing.

The evil genius behind the new TOS

The evil genius behind the new TOS

Now I’m sure many users who have been using the service for as long as a couple years probably feel like this is a bait and switch. But, don’t forget that they’ve been using the service for free all this time, while Instagram (and now for Facebook) has plunked down money to pay for developers to write code, servers to host their product, and so on. In order to pay for these costs, the firm needs to develop a revenue model.

So as a business, what is its options? Well, I see three possibilities. The first option is to charge the users for accessing the service. On the face of it, that’s a non-starter. Charging for access is the very antithesis of social media, so no way it’s going to fly. Could you imagine the ensuing firestorm if Instagram had announced a monthly fee for accessing the service? Not in a million years.

Another option would have been to create some kind of image selling service à la iStock Photo or Getty Images. In theory this sounds reasonable, but that would have required developing a an entirely new front-end Web presence to sell the photos, not to mention tons of marketing, lots of time to organize and classify the content, working out how the royalties would work, and so on. In other words, it would have been like starting a new business. After acquiring Instagram for $1 billion, do you think Facebook wants to tool around trying to experiment with a new business for this firm? No way.

The third option is selling targeted advertising, which is frankly a no brainer. Why is that? For starters, the model has already been proven by Facebook, which has made an art form out of monetizing on user generated content and lots of eyeballs. During Q3 2012, Facebook reported $1.3 billion in earnings, up 32 percent from the same period last year. Furthermore, seeing as Facebook is the parent company, it has a prebuilt and tested advertising infrastructure, not to mention trained and effective sales staff, ready to bring the product to market.

The way I see it, this option was a foregone conclusion the moment the ink was dry on the deal with Facebook earlier in the year. It was only a matter of time. So, still unhappy with Instagram’s decision? All I can say is if it bothers you so much, you should have left back in September when the service was officially acquired.

If you have any comments you’d like to share, please let me know in your comments.



Creepy Marketing and Social Media: How to Scare Away Your Customers for Good

Halloween is around the corner, so for this week’s post I wanted to turn to a topic that is most definitely apropos: creepy marketing. No, we’re not talking about marketing for Halloween.

What’s creepy marketing, you might ask? Creepy marketing is what happens when personalization goes horribly wrong—when good intentions morph into, well, disturbing communication that has the opposite of its intended effect and, instead of helping a brand push a product or service, sends recipients running for the hills. With the rise of social media and its nearly universal adoption by marketers, it’s high time that marketers learn what not to do when they engage with their customers and prospects.

Fact is, marketers use personalization because it works extremely well. How well? Generally, the more you personalize a message the better it will perform. In a landmark study by Banta Corp. on multichannel marketing, it was reported that incorporating three or four personalized elements in an email boosted its clickthrough rate by 63 percent, and seven or more elements lifted it by an amazing 318 percent!

Wow! With stats like these, you can see why marketers of all stripes have been jumping on the personalization bandwagon like it’s going out of style. During the past few years, we’ve witnessed an explosion of personalized content across the marketing spectrum—direct mail, email, SMS, landing pages … all spiced up by including personalized content or messaging. Out of all of this personalized communication, some has been good, some has been great … and some has been downright creepy.

Last year, I put out a post titled “Creepy Marketing—When Database Marketing Goes Awry,” in which I defined creepy marketing as “if it looks creepy and feels creepy, then it probably is creepy and you shouldn’t do it.” I then go on to point out that an actual example of creepy marketing includes writing out a customer’s name along with other personally identifiable information anywhere visible to the general public. I also include displaying a customer’s age, marital status or medical condition in marketing messaging.

Turning to social media, avoiding creepy marketing takes on a new urgency in the medium where stakes have been raised considerably. The reason why is two-fold: First, because social media involve networks of individuals with public exposure, it’s way easier to creep people out. Second, if you do offend someone on social media, then good luck handling the ensuing social media disaster. Offended parties now have the ability to let everyone on their social networks know right away just how unhappy they are—and they usually don’t hesitate to do so.

So how do you avoid creeping people out in social media? On a strategic level, a thoughtful post by Laura Horton  that appeared on offers five pointers:

1.     Be helpful but not pushy;

2.     Be a thought leader, if you can;

3.     Be careful what you say, even if you know a lot;

4.     Reach out if you see active interest in your brand; and

5.     Stay on top of social marketing best practices and trends.

I think this list is a good place to start. More tactically speaking, in her blogKristen Lamb gives us five examples of social media marketing tactics that not only creep individuals out, but probably don’t work very well, either. Her list includes automatically adding people to your firm’s Facebook fan list, and sending out annoying automated promotional messages on Twitter to random people who might have tweeted about topics you think are relevant to whatever product you’re trying to push. Yuck.

Again, I think this list is a good starting point. Though of course, the possibilities for abuse by marketers are probably endless. Have you ever been creeped out by a company on social media? If so, I’d love to hear about it. Please let me know in your comments.

Happy Halloween and happy marketing!


‘SoMoBiDa’ Isn’t a Song: Like It or Not, the Confluence of Social, Mobile and Big Data Is the Future of Marketing

Are you familiar with the word “SoMoBiDa”? SoMoBiDa is an abbreviation for Social, Mobile and Big Data—a combination of the three great trends in today’s marketing world. In a practical sense, what does SoMoBiDa mean for marketers?

Social—it’s become cliché to say it, but social media has changed the way in which brands engage and interact with their customers. On one hand, social media has given marketers an incredible platform for disseminating content to the masses, and at an incredibly low cost. Social has given marketers the ability not only monitor what customers are saying and feeling about the firm and its products (social listening or monitoring), but it’s opened the door to actual two-way conversations with clients (social engagement).

Listening to, responding to and engaging with users on Social is a challenge that marketers will be forced to meet with increasing effectiveness in coming years. Recently, a host of new solutions has sprung up to help with the task. Using a Social CRM tool, for example, marketers can match Social Insight against existing customer and prospect data, creating a powerful marketing tool for acquisition, retention or customer service.

Similarly to campaign management, marketers are already starting to experiment with ways to automate some of their organization’s Social Engagement. In fact, some believe that a large portion of Social Engagements can be automated, and new tools have sprung up to fill the need. When it comes to the tone or content of the social conversation, however, many firms have discovered that Social Media is a double-edged sword where control of the conversation has shifted to the crowd—truly a frightening concept to any marketer! Ultimately, marketers who ignore Social do so at their own peril.

Mobile—if marketing is about sending the right message to the right people at the right place at the right time … Well then mobile is the right place. And marketers need to be there. More than simply a “channel” in the conventional sense, mobile is more like a way of life. This is because the mobile device has become hardwired into the way we go about our lives. How do you feel when you accidentally leave home without your phone, or when your phone dies and you have no way to charge it? Not good, right? Can you sit down for an entire meal without picking up your phone at least once to check your email, see what’s trending on Twitter or find out you’re your finds are doing or saying on Facebook?

Mobile presents marketers with an “always on” touchpoint with customers and prospects, giving marketers potential 24/7 access to them, the ability to monitor what they do and where they are, and so on. Now of course being an “always on” channel is both a blessing and a curse. Because the smartphone is used all day long for a variety of reasons, users are understandably hypersensitive with regard to uninvited or unwanted intrusions.

Big Data—“Yeah, yeah. Enough about Big Data, already,” you’re probably saying. At this point, I think it’s safe to say we’re all familiar with this über-meme on a high level. What it means for marketers, however, is another story. Try asking most marketers what benefit Big Data will have for their organizations and their heads will probably start to spin. The trouble with explaining the benefits of Big Data is that Big Data is the activity of analyzing and deriving insight from the mountains of unstructured data that are accumulating within and across today’s enterprise firm, on servers and in stacks, on PCs, in spreadsheets, on the Web and in the Cloud. Fact is, Big Data can tell us anything, or nothing—you just won’t know until you gotten down into the weeds and done the dirty work.

In a great recent post by Sandro Catanzaro titled “Taming the Wild West: 7 Trends Uncovered With Big Data,” the author identifies seven super-practical and highly impactful insights firms have gleaned with Big Data. Among the discoveries that Catanzaro highlights are a retailer who realizes that consumers browse higher-end lines before purchasing one tier down. Another was a discovery by a credit card company that consumers in urban areas viewing an ad for a new credit card on Tuesday are more likely to sign up on Sunday night. Catanzaro gives us seven real-world examples uncovered using the latest tools. These are just seven examples—the potential list is truly endless.

Beyond a sum of its parts, SoMoBiDa refers to the confluence of these three great forces and the immense power this combination unleashes for marketers. Standing alone, any one of these trends signals a momentous shift in the way we do business. When they’re combined together they can become truly transformative.

Let’s look at an example in which a potential customer walks into a retail location and looks at some merchandise. While doing so, let’s say he or she scans a QR Code above the device and learns more about the product using an in-store app. Because it is the first week of the month, using Big Data the marketer knows that this is when most big-ticket purchases are made, right after payday for most consumers. As a result, a special time-sensitive offer pops up in the in-store app asking the user to share the offer with his/her network. The customer then tweets about the product.

Using a Social CRM tool, the firm is able match the social engagement to the CRM database, which has been beefed with Big Data custom attribution modeling leveraging past purchase info combined demographic and psychographic data to identify this Twitter user as a repeat customer with a high lifetime value, who usually buys online from someone a couple days after an in-store visit. Using location services, the firm is able to discern at which location the customer is shopping. To help close the deal, the in-store sales staff is immediately sent over to assist the prospect, armed with complete customer order history and personal information on a tablet. Pretty awesome, huh?

Now of course this is just one example for one type of business. Nor am I claiming to have all the answers now—it’s way too early in the game and no one does yet. But just think for a moment of the power that marketers will have in their hands if they do SoMoBiDa right and incorporate it into their business model? If you project several years in the future, companies that get it right will be the ones that succeed. Those that don’t … well, they probably won’t be around.

Okay, looks like over my word count limit again and I’m out of space for this post. Got any observations or SoMoBiDa ideas for your company or products? If so, I’d love to hear about them in your comments.

#NBCFail: What Happens When an Industry Faces Digital Disruption

Like most Americans, I’ve spent a lot of time watching the Olympics over the past couple weeks. Probably way more than I should. To be totally honest, I haven’t been the biggest fan of NBC’s coverage, and on this I’m definitely not alone. Look, for example, at the #NBCFail Twitter campaign that erupted online over the past couple weeks. Led mostly by bloggers and new media pundits, the campaign has relentlessly lambasted NBC for its poor coverage.

A major criticism by the #NBCFail folks has centered on topics ranging from showing only American competitors, to endless and annoying human interest stories, from snarky banter with condescending hosts, to strangely jingoistic flag-waving commentary. I must say I agree that it’s generally been an unpleasant experience. But beyond poor coverage itself, NBC has also been taking a ton of flack for its new media ‘strategy’ – if you can call it that – that includes no live streaming content on the Web. They have an App with some live coverage, but it’s only available to those with an active paid cable subscription that includes NBC already.

Now of course many in the industry have rushed to NBC’s defense. In his recent article in Ad Age ‘The Truth About #NBCFail,’ Simon Dumenco states quite correctly that “NBC is not a charity.” He then goes on to explain that NBC paid about $1.2 billion for the rights to broadcast the games. That’s a lot of greenbacks. Dumenco’s point is that because NBC is not listed as a 501c3 (non-profit) organization, it has every right to run in the Olympics in a manner it sees fit in order to recoup and hopefully make a profit on its hefty investment. Fair enough.

While on one hand I tend to agree with some of the points made by Dumenco and other critics of #NBCFail, on the other I really do feel that NBC has completely bungled its new media strategy. Like it or not, NBC must accept the fact that their monopoly on broadcast content has been disrupted by the emergence of new technologies, most notably the Internet and the DVR. Instead of creating a business model that leverages and monetizes on this new reality, they’ve instead tried to ram an old business model down the throats of consumers across the US, essentially missing the forest for the trees. As a result, they’ve pissed off millions of people, devaluing their brand in the process.

This is eerily reminiscent of what happened to the recording industry a little over a decade ago. Remember Tower Records? Sam Goody? Virgin Megastores? All gone. And I could continue and list off dozens. Well, guess what happened? The world changed and the recording industry lost its monopoly on distribution of its primary product. What was their master plan? Suing Napster. And all that accomplished was putting off the inevitable by a couple years at most. Today, all the old players are gone and iTunes is the world’s largest retailer of music worldwide, and has been since 2009. The craziest part is that it was only launched by Apple in 2001. It happened so fast.

Well, why was Apple, a company with no experience selling music, able to swoop in and within a few years totally dominate a legacy industry, displacing existing firms? Two words: Disruption and Innovation. Disruption caused by the emergence of new technology – namely, the Internet as a means of Distribution – enabling firms with the best new ideas to unleash Innovation on an industry ripe for transformation.

NBC’s Motto?

NBC and the other legacy broadcast networks are now facing similar dilemma. With the emergence of the Internet as a viable distribution channel for broadcast media, their monopoly is over. Don’t like NBC’s coverage? Well, all you need to do is locate a proxy and you can watch awesome uninterrupted streaming coverage on BBC, or China’s national network CCTV, among many others. And if this ignominy weren’t enough, Digital Video Recording (DVR) boxes in most homes mean that almost no one is watching commercials anymore. Sure, NBC can crow about its impressive ratings while it blacks out live coverage and force millions of people to watch their broadcast in primetime. But how many of these people are tape delaying coverage by an hour and skipping the ads? Way more than they want the advertisers to think.

What this all means is that the landscape has radically changed for the networks, though they don’t seem to realize it. How long is it before most advertisers conclude that the 30-second commercial is functionally obsolete? My guess is it can’t be too long. And when they do, guess what will happen? No more 30-second ads. That will mean a HUGE revenue stream dries up for the networks as the advertisers pull their campaigns en masse. In my estimation, because the networks seem completely unprepared this shock will be even more devastating than the loss of classified ad revenues was for newspapers.

The only solution for networks, of course, is instead of fighting change and pissing off your customers with inane blackouts and insulting restrictions that don’t work, to be the harbinger of transformation and change instead of the victim. Can they do it? It’s certainly possible. Take, for example, this past year’s absolutely brilliant Final 4 strategy by CBS/NCAA. While the tournament was broadcast on regular TV by CBS without blackouts of restrictions, there was also an amazing App you could buy that offered uninterrupted access to all the games. Sure the App needed to be purchased – but the user experience was so awesome I sure didn’t mind ponying up a few bucks to install it on my iPad.

Experience after experience has shown in an effort to prevent cannibalization of their existing business model, legacy firms miss the forest for the trees and fail to innovate in time, allowing new competitors to swoop in and change the rules of the game for them. By that time, of course, it’s way too late and they’re toast. Ask Kodak about digital photography. Bet they now wish they had started the transformation to digital a few years earlier, don’t they? Or ask Borders about eBooks? I could go on and on…

So, do you think the networks will figure it out? Let me know in your comments.

– Rio

Social Media and ROI: Strange Bedfellows, or a Match Made in Heaven?

Unless you’ve been hiding under a rock the past few years, you’ve noticed that Social Media has become the new norm in our lives, both personal and professional. For businesses large and small, what was initially a curiosity has rapidly emerged as a highly effective tool for interacting with their customers and prospects. In fact, according to Emil Protalinski in an article on, a whopping 68 percent of small businesses say they use Facebook as their main marketing tool. Wow!

Bet he’s never heard of Facebook

As interest and investment in social media continue to grow, it’s inevitable that corporate stakeholders and bean counters across corporate America will begin to clamor for marketers to demonstrate ROI for their firm’s social media activities. And believe me, Social Media spending will most certainly continue to grow. According to an article on, in the next five years, marketers can expect to spend 19.5 percent of their budgets on social media, which is almost three times more than the current level. That’s a lot of shekels. This year alone, in fact, marketers are already spending 10.8 percent of their budgets on it.

With increased budgets will undoubtedly come increased scrutiny. But as is the case with most things, the devil is in the details, and measuring social media success is much easier said than done. Unlike most marketing activities, you see, which can be traced back to number of leads generated, customers acquired or sales made, Social Media KPIs are anything but clear cut.

What does it all add up to, anyway?

Think about it for a moment. How much is a Facebook “Like” worth, anyway? How much would you pay to get a new follower or to be mentioned on Twitter? How much does each LinkedIn connection contribute to your company’s bottom line? Given this environment, it’s not a big surprise that there are some who simply shrug their shoulders and say that trying to pin ROI to Social Media is a complete waste of time. I don’t necessarily belong to that school of thought, but I do think that Social Media is an entirely new beast that needs to be viewed in a manner distinct from other places marketers spend their money.

Fact is, social media is not simply another advertising channel with a specific budget that can be attributed to a specific group of sales or other traditional marketing KPIs. This is because social media can be used by a firm for many different activities by different departments, many of which are not exactly under marketing’s purview or control.

For the customer service team, using Social CRM technologies and listening platforms, Social Media is an incredible tool that can be used to listen to and engage with customers on the Web, supplementing their phone bank and other customer service activities. For the sales team, Social Media presents yet another source of red-hot leads to be contacted—prospects that have expressed interest in their firm’s products or services and can be followed up on in real time. For marketers, social media may play a role in the department’s content marketing strategy, enabling them to disseminate awesome content to a large base of customers and prospects at minimal cost. And for a PR department, social media represents a unique way to broadcast company press and news releases to the press and public in a continuous feedback loop.

But as a direct marketer by trade, I must admit that I have a difficult time accepting that any activity run by the marketing department can avoid the inevitable ROI discussion. Sure, most ROI calculations I’ve seen in run-of-the-mill PowerPoints are 50 percent math 50 percent BS … I should know because I’ve made quite a few of them in my day! But that being said, I do think we’ll eventually get there. And I’m not alone: A recent study published by Mediabistro demonstrated that 64 percent of executives believe that social marketing will eventually produce a legitimate return on investment for their firms.

In many ways, this lack of clarity is a result of Social Media still being in its infancy to a large extent, and regarding ROI we’ve still got a ways to go. So what do I think the answer will ultimately be? I’m not completely sure, but let me leave you with this.

Your CMO?

Because Social Media is being used by different departments with different budgets for different things, when evaluating social media a firm needs to grasp a firm understanding of how Social Media is being used within the organization. For each department, success will need to be measured and tracked differently based on performance metrics that are relevant to stakeholders in each of those departments. Sales teams, for example, should use metrics relevant to salespeople, such as number of leads generated, conversion rate on those leads and so on. Customer service departments, not surprisingly, operate on entirely different systems and, therefore, need to evaluate Social Media according to an entirely differ set of KPIs. Ultimately, each department’s success measurements for social media need to be based on their specific goals and metrics.

Okay, I’m out of space so I’ll leave it there for now. Have you tried to work out KPIs or perform ROI calculations for your Social Media program? If so, I’d love to see what you’ve come up with, so let me know in your comments.


Content Marketing, or Selling Without Selling

In my last post titled ‘Be the Wave—Or ‘The New Marketers’ Manifesto,’ I discussed that amazing transformation that’s taking place in the way people interact with their favorite brands. Exciting stuff, right? Building on that, today I would like to turn your attention to another crucially important trend in the marketing world you need to become familiar with, called ‘Content Marketing.’


As they say, Content in King...

As I mentioned in my last post, we’re in a time of rapid change, where control of the Buyer’s Journey has shifted to the customer and out of the firm’s control. In this landscape, many consumers have simply shut themselves off from the traditional world of sales and marketing. Armed with laptops, smartphones and tablets, today’s buyers instead turn to the Web and Social Media to educate themselves.

Making a sale in this new paradigm requires having a presence where your prospects or customers are—which is increasingly on their mobile devices and in the Social Media universe—not necessarily where you want them to be or where they were previously.

But that’s not all. Today’s consumers also tend to be increasingly turned off by traditional sales and marketing tactics. This has resulted in plunging response rates and decreased levels of brand perception across the board. Think about it. If you own a DVR, when’s the last time you actually sat through a full 30-second TV commercial? Probably during the Super Bowl, right? That was more than one month ago.

He's got the right approach.

Success in this environment requires selling by informing—and this is where Content Marketing comes into play. Content Marketing means creating and distributing valuable and highly relevant content to your customers and prospects, with the goal of attracting and engaging your target audience, while driving profitable customer interaction and cementing your brand’s reputation as a thought leader and industry expert.

Content Marketing is the art of opening up a dialog with your customers and prospects without engaging in actual hard selling or pitching. Instead of relentlessly promoting products or services, you inform customers and prospects about key industry issues, sometimes involving your products, but mostly not. The objective is to deliver information that makes your potential buyers better educated, while lifting the perceived value of your company, brand and products.

The foundation of this strategy is the belief that if buyers are well informed, they will not only reward us with their business and ongoing loyalty, but also become brand advocates and help spread the word across the Social Media Universe—essentially doing our jobs for us.

Content Marketing is highly effective because study after study has shown us that, when push comes to shove, the vast majority of buyers prefer to receive company information in an informative article versus an advertisement. In fact, according to statistics published by the Custom Publishing Council and Roper Public Affairs, 80 percent of business decision makers prefer to receive news and information this way. Wow!

But if you think the term ‘Content Marketing’ sounds kind of fuzzy and you’ve never heard of it before, you’re not alone. It’s basically a new umbrella term that encapsulates a number of things, some new and some old. Many things can be considered Content Marketing, including white papers, blogs, industry studies, feature articles in industry or trade publications, website copy and, of course, a presence on various Social Media websites.

Marketers of all stripes are currently using Content Marketing strategies in a wide variety of business activities, including demand generation, lead nurture, direct sales, customer retention and CRM, not to mention generating valuable PR and establishing the firm as an industry thought leader, while increasing brand equity and perceived value.

Kind of like a Civil Engineer, sans the hard hat.

Ever hear of the term ‘Content Engineer?’ If not, I guarantee you will soon. A Content Engineer is a fancy sounding title that describes someone, usually in the marketing department, who specializes in researching, creating and deploying relevant and engaging content, while tracking interaction and engagement and tying it back to an ROI. It’s a new role, but more and more firms are jumping on the Content Marketing bandwagon and adding a Content Engineer to their staff to help lead the way. Does your firm have a Content Engineer yet? If not, what are you waiting for?

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