Viral Marketing: The Virile and the Vile

It wasn’t too long ago that if you were told something was viral, you’d try to distance yourself at least a little bit, but nowadays pretty much the opposite is true. We all love viral content (that’s essentially why it goes viral). Marketers know this, and that’s how viral marketing came to be. This marketing technique is essentially when a company attempts to have information about their products disseminated across the internet to a significant extent by proxy of user sharing.

When implemented properly, viral marketing can be a huge success, just look at the Dove Real Beauty Campaign or the Dumb Ways to Die initiative. Chances are you know exactly what I’m talking about without even clicking the links, and that’s the power of viral marketing, it offers organisations the chance to spread their message to massive audiences without having to pay advertising costs, or risk annoying consumers, as the message should provide real value, and be voluntarily spread rather than occupy advertising space.

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The song will probably be in my head for another 6 1/2 years

 

While viral marketing can be effective, it can also go horribly, horribly wrong. When I say horribly wrong, I mean sending a plastic gun waving actor to a densely populated area with the hopes of getting people to buy a video game. The police showed up and drew their own weapons on the man before the second actor could come save the day and pitch the new Splinter Cell video game.

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It’s either an armed assailant or viral marketing, either way send backup

The worst thing about it is you probably never knew this even happened, which really isn’t what they were going for with the whole “viral” thing.

This attempt didn’t even have a chance to get off the ground due to its poor execution. Other campaigns which have been executed just awfully are Sony’s attempt to encourage PSP purchases with their fake “All I want for XMAS is PSP”  video and blog which chronicles a kids attmept to get a PSP for Christmas. The end result is just bad advertising thinly veiled as the most cringe worthy and inaudible rap of all time, and a borderline illiterate blog.

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Also the “kid” is at least 30

I could keep talking about misguided attempts to create viral marketing like these, but I’d rather quickly discuss what a good viral marketing campaign actually needs. For a viral marketing campaign to be successful it needs to fit seamlessly with the rest of the marketing mix, and be backed up by other forms of marketing. The content needs to be genuinely engaging, and relevant to the product, or at least their market, and at the end of the take it takes some intuition, and a bit of luck. So if you’re ever trying to make some viral content, keep that in mind, and for everyone’s sake, don’t run around pointing fake guns at people.

The Black and White Hats of SEO

Search Engine Optimisation, or SEO, is an approach used to try and improve the position held on search engine results by an entity. It aims to make a company, product, or anything else more accessible and noticeable through the natural, organic results produced by a search engine as a means of garnering more visitors to a website.

SEO can be a significant traffic driver which is highly targeted and dynamic, and it can be quite cost effective, so it’s crucial for companies to get it right, or risk falling to the uncharted obscurity that is page 2 of google search results.

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I’ve never been myself, but I hear it’s something like this

There are a variety of strategies companies use to optimise search engine results, some of them are more ethical and involve the generation of relevant and quality content, while others are a little shadier, and involve some slightly deceitful practices. These are known as white hat and black hat techniques.

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You can probably guess which is which

White hat techniques are based around quality content. They aim to optimise search engine results by offering the audience what they are looking for. The use of relevant keywords, titles and metadata, as well as an abundance of high quality inbound links are all white hat techniques that will optimise search engine results in favour of your company that don’t dupe anyone or undermine what should be the ethical and fair nature of search engines.

Black hat techniques on the other hand focus purely on how to gain search engine result favourability, with total disregard for the human audience and the content they seek. Hidden content and spammed links which will elevate search engine rankings, link farming, and essentially any practice which goes against search engine guidelines to manipulate the way the relevance of a webpage will be perceived by a search engine are considered black hat techniques.

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These practices are unethical, and they hinder the audiences attempts to find the most relevant content based on their search, which is detrimental to the consumer for obvious reasons, as well as being disadvantageous for the search engines themselves, as if they don’t provide the best and most relevant results, internet users are far more likely to switch over to a different search engine.

 

In an effort to counter thing, search engines have developed preventative measures to face these black hat techniques. Search engines are becoming increasingly adept at sniffing out link stuffing, keyword spamming, and content duplication, and not only stopping it, but also penalizing the websites responsible with lower search engine results.

By no means does this spell the end of search engine optimisation, but rather a new and more virtuous era of it, as offering high quality and sought after content, providing value, having connected social media presences and mobile compatibility are the new best practices for optimising your search engine results, which is better for search engines, companies, and the consumers.

The Internet of Things: Scary cool, or just plain scary?

Imagine if your GPS could guide you to the nearest empty parking space, how cool would that be?

What if forests could tell us when they were about to burst into flames? Or your medicine told you when to take it? That would save lives wouldn’t it?

How about if we could turn on the heater before we got home, or lock our door and turn off the stove from work just in case we forgot, you’d be game for that right?

What if you got a text from your fridge as you drive to the supermarket telling you to get milk? Slightly less cool? I mean still pretty helpful though.

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Sorry my refrigerator just needs needs me to grab some yogurt

What if as you walked down the street to get some lunch your watch told you there’s a sale on at a shoe shop across the street, kind of seems like really intrusive advertising doesn’t it?

Welcome to the internet of things, a development of the internet in which everyday objects have network connectivity, and are all constantly communicating with each other. The applications of such technology are virtually endless, with the examples I mentioned before ranging from convenience boosting, to life saving, and right back down to advertising.

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Some of the uses of the internet of things are undeniably amazing, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t without its downside. I’m not talking about malfunctions leaving us to fend for ourselves without the technology we’ve become so dependent on, I pretty much did that last week….

I’m talking about the privacy concerns that accompany the irrefutably impressive possibilities of the Internet of Things. We’ve already reached a point in time where ads are being targeted to us based on our internet browsing. This can be beneficial to everyone, as marketers can effectively target their market, and consumers are only exposed to ads that have some relevance to them, but it can also taken too far, like when Target tipped off a man about his teenage daughters pregnancy through targeted coupons.

target

Target knows all your secrets now

So if targeted marketing can already cause privacy concerns due to shopping and internet behaviours, imagine the possibilities for infringement when our glasses, watches, televisions and fridges are all able to aid in data mining.

Privacy concerns are possibly the largest issue surrounding the Internet of Things, and it’s an important concern. If the Internet of Things progresses to a level where essentially all of daily tasks can be monitored by these wirelessly connected devices, then all our movements, all our activities and behaviours will be recorded, stored, and used by third parties. This could have some benefits, but it’s still a little scary to think about. So as we go down this path towards interconnectivity between essentially everything, just remember it all comes at a cost, and that cost might just be your privacy.

Do we rely on our smartphones too much? Probably

The age of mobile is upon us. The number of mobile phone subscriptions in Australia outnumbers our population, the global number of worldwide mobile users have overtaken desktop users, and 60% of internet traffic now comes from mobile devices.

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They kind of do everything for us

We trust our smartphones with our private thoughts and messages, our banking, our navigation, and our ability to remember just about anything. But do we trust these devices too much? What happens if (when?) this technology betrays us?

The idea of technology betraying mankind is embedded in our culture, it can be found in an abundance of films from Westworld to The Matrix  and Terminator, and beyond.

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That’s right, even WALL-E

But the type of technological betrayal I’m talking about is much less apocalyptic and much more gently inconvenient.

Society’s heavy reliance on smartphones can leave us feeling pretty unprepared to make our way through the world without them. Whether it be not knowing where to look on the train when your phone battery dies, or struggling to remember the name of that cartoon talking bear with the rabbit friend when you’ve burned through your data allowance.

Arthur

His name is Arthur, and he’s an Aardvark

 

As we grow more and more reliant on our smartphones, and use them for more and more functions, the odds of them letting us down when we need them most will steadily rise. Soon enough we will be using our phones to unlock our houses, to turn on our cars, and to run our appliances. But what happens when they let us down? My phone can barely last the day right now, so I can’t imagine it coping very well if tasked with connecting every bit of technology in my life, so I’m not sure I’m ready to trust my smartphone (or my wi-fi) with so much responsibility.

Even though most of the time our phones let us down it’s in severely minor situations, sometimes it can be pretty dire. Like when our GPS’s get us lost , or our banking details are stolen from our phones.

I’m not saying technology is bad, I’ll leave that to Michael Crichton novels. All I’m saying is that as we move towards a world where our pocket devices are capable of managing more and more of our lives, and we rely on them more and more, we need to remember that they can’t always be dependent on, and having an analogue backup probably isn’t the worst idea, at least for now.

Multi-Platform Users (and how they’re messing with your metrics)

“You can’t manage what you can’t measure”, an adage famously spoken by Peter Drucker, or Bob Napier depending on who you ask, rings just as true in today’s online marketplace as it did when it was first spoken.

It’s always been crucial to measure the performance of a business’s different aspects, it lets you know your strengths, your weaknesses, and what you need to focus on to improve. Now that the internet plays such a vital role in modern businesses, digital analytics are of the utmost importance, but despite this, many businesses can still misuse several key online metrics.

Back in simpler times, people would access the internet on one device, their computer. That’s no longer the case, these days we can connect to the internet on our desktop, laptop, phone, tablet, TV, PlayStation and even our refrigerators.

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Because I didn’t already take long enough to decide what to eat

The multi-device way we access the internet nowadays impacts our measurement of various digital metrics, as if your analytics platform isn’t geared towards multi-platform users, each device someone uses to check out the same website will be registered as two unique visitors as opposed to the one using multiple platforms to access a website. Not taking this shift in device usage into account can cause serious issues in the measurement of various key digital metrics.

The measurement of unique visitors, perhaps the best measure of online audience, will be incorrect if multi-platform users are not accounted for. The same goes for conversion rates, engagement metrics, global audience and viewable impressions. These misattributions can mislead businesses into thinking they have a larger, and less engaged audience than in actuality, as one highly involved viewer using multiple devises may be presented as several viewers, each with lower engagement.

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Probably all of you right now

So the lesson to be learnt is that while the measurement of digital metrics is undeniably important for a business, it is essential that they measure correctly, and take into account individuals using multiple devises to partake in online activity, as without this adjustment, your metrics can become very misleading.

The Darkside of ‘Freemium’ Content

I want you to close your eyes and imagine something, now open them, because you kind of need to be able to read to see where I’m going with this. It’s 2 in the morning, you’re playing your favourite terrible phone game, and you just can’t beat that one level, you can’t afford that next item, you can’t crush that next candy and you can’t tycoon that next roller-coaster and it’s just killing you. But you have to win, you’d do anything to win. This is where there virtual goods model emerges from the shadows and offers you a way out, and for only 99 cents.

The virtual goods model is the morally ambiguous little cousin of the ‘freemium’ model of social media revenue. The ‘freemium’ model involves the offering of a baseline product or service free of charge, with additional premium features or benefits available for an extra cost. This model has been implemented to great affect by online service providers such as Spotify, Prezi and many others including WordPress, the website I’m using to write this blog for free.Wordpress

And then we have the virtual goods model, which makes its money through micro-transactions, enticing game players (generally on a mobile platform) to purchase virtual goods in order to advance in the game. While not all games utilizing mobile transactions are doing something wrong, many have received criticism about their deceptive nature, particularly in targeting those with addictive personalities and even children, offering just a little more fun, a little more success, for just a little more money.

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This is about as close as we get to extorting 7 year olds

 

This revenue model is all about execution, if done fairly they can be a perfectly legitimate means of generating revenue, but they do tread in an ethical grey area, with some preying on the naivety and youth of users to earn their money, and this is bad. It’s bad for consumers in the short run, and it could be bad for online and mobile games in the long run, as they risk earning a reputation of being deceitful, money hungry and sneaky.

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Kanye gets it, a little ironic, but he gets it

So let’s not let micro-transactions get out of hand, if you’re using them for revenue, be ethical, and if you’re using them in games, be smart. It’s all in our hands, let’s just be reasonable.

 

3 Must Do’s For All Brands on Facebook

Facebook. You know what it is, you know how it works, and you know why you use it. We all do. Chances are you’re using it right now, and for anyone managing any brands out there, you should be too.

Half of all Australians have been found to use social media on a daily basis, with 25% of the population using it more than 5 times a day. Out of the vast array of social media platforms we have at our disposal Facebook sits comfortably in the role of the big kahuna, with over 13 million individuals nationwide using Facebook for an average of 8.5 hours per week. That’s a lot of potential exposure brands can get on Facebook, so it’s critical that they get it right.

So here are the top three must do’s for brands on Facebook looking to make noise and connect with their customers.

1. Know your audience

This is a pretty straightforward one that is relevant to all facets of marketing, as an understanding of your target audience should drive your marketing efforts. If you don’t understand who you’re talking to, it becomes a whole lot harder to talk to them.

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I tried explaining this to my two year old cousin but he didn’t really care

 

Take a look at Red Bull, they possess an excellent understanding of their youthful, adventurous and gosh darn extreme consumers and as a result they can offer up content that appeals to this market, netting them over 45 million likes, and a lot of subsequent post likes, comments, shares, and brand exposure.

And then there’s Cheerios, who instead of building a rapport with the parents who buy their product, try and go right for the youngsters by announcing their new Snapchat account, a complete failure to understand who their audience is, and how they work.

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Great, another Snapchat from Cheerios

2. Be interesting

Once you know who you’re talking to, you need to know how to talk to them. Post attention grabbing content that will help in the formation of strong, positive brand associations, and post it often.

ESPN posts frequent updates on all major sports which offer value to their audience, and keep them in the consumers mind as a top sports provider. Huge corporations such as McDonalds, Coca-Cola and Disney have also found online success by uploading a constant stream of advertisement/entertainment hybrid content that both engage the audience and  circulate their respective brand messages. Not all brands have the same success, posting content that fails to be interesting, relevant, or both.

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What even is this Red Rooster?

3. Be relatable

Facebook exists as a virtual social space for people to interact with each other is a casual environment. In order to truly thrive in this setting, brands should operate in an informal way, or they risk alienating themselves as simple spam advertisements in a sea of user generated content.

Starbucks excels in this regard, as there informal, well-crafted posts excellently appeal to their market and do so in a way which blends nicely with the social landscape provided by Facebook.

Another great way to make your brand more relatable on Facebook is through responses to customer inquiries. By offering up friendly, helpful, and prompt responses to be people’s customer service issues, brands can gain the persona of a helpful individual, rather than a faceless organisation.

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If only every conversation could be so helpful and polite