The Influence of Mobile on Social Marketing’s Future

Mobile platforms and location-based networks could take social marketing to the next level

As the increase in smart device ownership helps put the mobile web in the pocket of more and more Americans, mobile will play a greater role in all forms of content consumption—including social media.

US marketers surveyed in June 2010 by PRWeek and MS&L Group believed mobile social would have important consequences for their brand. Asked which social media efforts would have the greatest effect on their company, 17% said more usage of social media on mobile platforms and a further 12% cited uptake of mobile location-based social networking.

Social Media Efforts with the Most Impact* on Company/Brand, June 2010 (% of US marketers)

Another 4% said investing more in Twitter would be their most important effort. While a majority of users access Twitter from their desktop, the microblogging service is a major example of greater use of social media from mobile platforms. According to the company’s blog, mobile usage of the site rose 62% in about four months, and mobile sign-ups increased from 5% of the total earlier in 2010 to 16%.

Currently, PRWeek and MS&L Group found that few US marketers were using specifically mobile-based social media tools, but the sophistication of smart devices has narrowed the distance between the desktop and mobile for many users.

Social Media Tools Used, June 2010 (% of US marketers)

Much of the marketing opportunity in going mobile lies with the ability to use location data to bring consumers timely messages when they are already nearby and possibly considering a purchase. Social media could prove a smart avenue for such efforts; while pure location-based services like foursquare remain relatively niche, Facebook has picked up location-based check-in services, and social networking has been the single biggest driver of mobile app usage and browsing over the past year.

Can Twitter Turn a Revenue Trickle into a Stream?

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twitter_logo It’s been four months since Twitter announced its long-awaited Promoted Tweets advertising platform, so it seems a good time to assess the service’s initial campaigns.

Early participants included Virgin America, NBC Universal’s Bravo and Red Bull. Virgin America used Promoted Tweets to announce an expansion into Toronto and a 50%-off promotion for the first 500 travelers who flew from two California airports into the Canadian city. Adweek reported that the promotion sold out in 3 hours.

Bravo used Promoted Tweets to highlight an Earth Day promotion whereby consumers were invited to find out their “green IQ” on NBC Universal’s website. In 2 hours, the promotion hit 300 retweets, the maximum allowed under the program. And by the end of the first day, Bravo had received an estimated 200,000 impressions, according to a company representative. Red Bull did not provide metrics but reported “engagement rates … higher than typical cost-per-click and CPM advertising.”

It all sounds positive, but to put these numbers in perspective, 500 tickets does not seem like a huge volume for an airline the size of Virgin America, especially considering that the routes involved the most populous state in the US and the largest city in Canada.

The same could be said of Bravo’s promotion. Its site received more than 1.1 million unique visitors in May 2010, according to Compete. That 300 of them retweeted the Earth Day promotion does not point to a huge success. And the company did not give details of what it meant by “impressions.” Similarly, Red Bull’s statement of high “engagement rates” was nonspecific. And none of the companies revealed how much they spent on the promotion.

All of this translates to a service that’s flapping its wings but has yet to take flight. When you consider that Facebook is on track to produce $1.3 billion in ad revenue this year, Twitter has lots of catching up to do to monetize its audience.

But there is hope. The three top motivators for US Twitter users to follow companies are to get updates on future products, to stay informed about the activities of a company and to receive discounts and promotions, according to an ExactTarget study. If brand marketers can use Promoted Tweets creatively to achieve these goals, they will find a receptive audience at the other end of the Twitter stream.

Motivation to Follow a Company or Brand on Twitter, April 2010 (% of US Twitter users)

Twitter also launched its @earlybird Exclusive Offers program. This is a Twitter account that tweets limited-time deals and discounts from participating advertisers to users who follow the account. Twitter has teamed up with some of its potential competitors in the online deal space, including Groupon and Gilt Groupe.

Disney used @earlybird to promote its film release “The Sorcerer’s Apprentice.” The movie opened July 16 to mostly negative reviews and is already considered a flop, so it’s not a good barometer of the effectiveness of @earlybird to get the word out about a film premiere, or any other product launch for that matter.

A better gauge of @earlybird’s early momentum is the number of followers. In its first month as an active account, it has already racked up 164,000. As more companies experiment with the service, some of them are bound to hit pay dirt. This should create a virtuous cycle of more consumers jumping on board, thereby enlarging the addressable audience for future promotions.

The question is whether Twitter can use these platforms to transform itself from a social phenomenon to a revenue generator before its investors run out of patience. It will take some big success stories to turn these baby steps into giant strides.

Social Media Aids Customer Acquisition

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Many B2C and B2B companies are successfully using social media networks to acquire customers, according to [pdf] the “State of Inbound Marketing Report” from internet marketing firm Hubspot.

Major Social Media Channels Provide Leads to 4 in 10 Companies

More than four in 10 companies overall have acquired a customer from four major social media channels. Forty-one percent of companies have acquired a customer from both Twitter and LinkedIn. That figure rises to 44% for Facebook and 46% for a company blog.

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Social Media Especially Helps B2C
When social media customer acquisition figures are broken out by B2B and B2C companies, it becomes clear that B2C companies generally obtain much more value from their social media marketing efforts. Fifty-one percent of B2C companies have acquired a customer from Twitter, compared to 38% of B2B companies. The difference is most stark in customer acquisition figures for Facebook, which 68% of B2C companies have obtained a customer from but only 33% of B2B companies.

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When it comes to professional social media network LinkedIn, however, the usefulness trends reverse. Forty-five percent of B2B companies have obtained a customer from LinkedIn, compared to only 26% of B2C companies. Figures for company blog customer acquisition are closest in range, with 57% of B2C companies and 43% of B2B companies obtaining a customer through this channel.

Blog Post Frequency Makes a Difference
Examining company blogs closer, the unsurprising finding is that the more posts a company makes, the more success it will have driving new business. One hundred percent of companies posting multiple times a day on their blogs acquired a customer, and 90% posting daily acquired a customer. This figures declines to 69% for companies posting two to three times a week, and all the way down to 13% for companies posting less than monthly.

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Most Business Blogs Post Weekly
The majority of business blogs in 2010 post weekly (38%). Another 29% post two to three times a week, and 17% post monthly. Only 3% post multiple times a day. Only 58% of companies making weekly blog posts acquire a customer, meaning most companies are leaving a significant tool for customer acquisition on the table.

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Bigger Business Blogs Better Lead Bringers
Business blogs begin generating significantly more leads when they have a median of 24 or more articles posted, according to other research by Hubspot.

Businesses with blog article numbers above this critical threshold are likely to have enough content to make a significant impact on search engines through additional indexed pages and new keywords with which to associate. In addition, other sites are more likely to link to a blog that offers a steady stream of content. Businesses with blogs of 24-plus articles are more likely to be committed to updating their blog frequently and, thus, are likely to generate more traffic from referring sites.

Business blogs that have 0-11 articles posted will generate a median of three leads. Once blogs reach the 12-23 posted article threshold, this median dramatically rises to 10. However, blogs with 24-51 posted articles generate a median of 13 leads, and will generate a median of 23 leads when the posted article threshold reaches 52. This represents 77% lead growth, more than twice the 30% lead growth that occurs when the number of posted blog articles reaches 24.

Will Social Strategizing Bring ROI?

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Only One-half of companies have a social strategy

A majority of US marketing professionals claim social media is now “invaluable” to their business, according to April 2010 research from online marketing firm R2integrated.

While relatively few marketers reported social was pointless and overhyped or too complicated to deal with, most are still not increasing revenues or otherwise profiting from their social efforts.

Although one-half of respondents said they had a social strategy in place—considered critical for success in the social space—only 35% thought they were making money.

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Strategy does help, though. Respondents who said they profited were twice as likely to have a formal strategy. They were also more likely to have staff dedicated to managing social media.

Marketers’ main goal in implementing a strategy was better lead generation, followed by brand monitoring.

The biggest obstacle for social strategies was not having enough data to come up with a measure of return on investment. Management buy-in was also a problem, and more than one-fifth of respondents said their audience was not active on social media.

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“Marketers clearly recognize the need for, and see the potential of, social media, but are still trying to develop models that increase real engagement which then leads to profitability—if that’s a goal for implementing a social strategy,” said Matt Goddard, CEO of R2integrated, in a statement.

“Despite the presence and popularity of social media, many companies remain relatively unfamiliar with its practices, pundits, and principles,” he said.

Marketing management firm Unica reported in March 2010 that strategic integration of social with other marketing efforts varied by channel. MarketingSherpa found that in late 2009 only one-quarter of social media marketers had reached the strategic phase.

Bigger Business Blogs Better Lead Bringers

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Business blogs begin generating significantly more leads when they have a median of 24 or more articles posted, according to research by internet marketing firm Hubspot.

Businesses with blog article numbers above this critical threshold are likely to have enough content to make a significant impact on search engines through additional indexed pages and new keywords with which to associate. In addition, other sites are more likely to link to a blog that offers a steady stream of content. Businesses with blogs of 24-plus articles are more likely to be committed to updating their blog frequently and, thus, are likely to generate more traffic from referring sites.

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Business blogs that have 0-11 articles posted will generate a median of three leads. Once blogs reach the 12-23 posted article threshold, this median dramatically rises to 10. However, blogs with 24-51 posted articles generate a median of 13 leads, and will generate a median of 23 leads when the posted article threshold reaches 52. This represents 77% lead growth, more than twice the 30% lead growth that occurs when the number of posted blog articles reaches 24.

Businesses with Blogs Generate 67% More Online Leads
Businesses with blogs generate 67% more online leads than businesses without blogs. A business with a blog will generate a median of 15 online leads, compared to a median of nine online leads for a business without a blog. Blog size does matter to a degree, as businesses with a median of 10 blog entries or less report similar online generation numbers to businesses without blogs.

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Advice for Bloggers
Based on its research, Hubspot offers the following advice to business bloggers:

  • Increase the number of keywords marketers rank for in Google. Through blogs, marketers have the opportunity to create unique content that can be different from their web site content. They have the potential to significantly increase the number of keywords they rank highly for in Google.
  • Generate inbound links. These are a central factor in Google’s organic search ranking algorithm. Other related sites are likely to link to a blog that provides interesting and fresh content.
  • Increase repeat visitors.Blogs give visitors a reason to come back and interact with sites.

Google Page Indexing Creates Leads
In addition to blogging to generate online leads, the more pages a company has indexed by Google, the more leads it will generate, according to related research by Hubspot. There is a strong positive correlation between the number of Google indexed pages and median leads. An incremental increase of 50-100 pages indexed by Google can cause lead growth in double-digit percentages. For example, going from 60-120 indexed pages to 121-175 indexed pages can increase a company’s median leads from seven to 12, creating 58.3% growth.

The most significant improvement in median lead growth comes when a company increases its indexed pages from the 176-310 range to the 311-plus range. Median leads skyrocket from 22 to 74, representing triple-digit 236% growth. After exceeding the 311 indexed pages mark, median lead growth subsides.

Google Page Indexing Creates Leads

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Getting your site ranked highly on search engines is one of the fundamentals of SEO, just how you go about that is a topic which creates a lot of discussion, which method works best, and is off page optimisation more effective than on page optimisation, and how valuable are links or votes that are directed to your site from other web sites on the net.

I’ve always worked on the premise that I get as many of these factors working for me when optimising a site and a very effective tool to get high rankings is relevancy to the subject you’re trying to rank for. Getting as many of your URL’s or pages indexed by the search engines can lead to an increase in both traffic and conversions. So I thought this research from HubSpot would be of interest to you.

The more pages a company has indexed by Google, the more leads it will generate, according to research by internet marketing firm Hubspot.

Incremental Indexed Pages Can Cause Double-digit Lead Growth
There is a strong positive correlation between the number of Google indexed pages and median leads. An incremental increase of 50-100 pages indexed by Google can cause lead growth in double-digit percentages. For example, going from 60-120 indexed pages to 121-175 indexed pages can increase a company’s median leads from seven to 12, creating 58.3% growth.

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The most significant improvement in median lead growth comes when a company increases its indexed pages from the 176-310 range to the 311-plus range. Median leads skyrocket from 22 to 74, representing triple-digit 236% growth. After exceeding the 311 indexed pages mark, median lead growth subsides.

Size Not Critical Factor
Overall, Hubspot research indicates that size is not a critical factor for achieving significant volumes of Google indexed pages. Size and number of pages are mildly positively correlated, mostly in the extreme categories of indexed pages.

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While HubSpot’s large customers formed the biggest group with 311 or more indexed pages in Google, small and medium-sized customers together outnumbered large ones in this category, 57% – 43%. In addition, small customers formed the largest group with 176 to 310 Google indexed pages (39%).

As might be expected, small customers do form the largest group within the less than 60 (53%) and 61-120 (54%) indexed pages categories.

Marketing Takeaways
Hubspot advises marketers considering a Google page indexing program to use the following techniques:

  • Build page volume: Consider starting a blog to quickly increase the number of indexed pages.
  • Improve each page’s optimization as per Google’s methodology to maximize chances of having all corporate web pages included in the index.
  • On-page search engine optimization: Place keywords in the right places on web pages such that Google and other search engines know what each page of a company’s web site is about, and what keywords to rank it for.
  • Off-page search engine optimization: Build inbound links from reputable sites, thus demonstrating a company’s popularity to search engines.
  • Inbound links do not generate more leads, but do generate more unique visitors.

Google Dominates Core Search
Google Sites clearly dominate US internet users’ core search activities, according to comScore. In March 2010, Google Sites led the core search market with 65.1% market share and 10.05 billion core searches, up 6% from February 2010. Both of these statistics represent the continuation of long-term core search trends.

Top 10 Viral Videos – March 2010

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Continuing a trend established in January and February 2010, the videos selected by video-content distributor goviral for March 2010 were universally light in tone.

For the first time this year, goviral did not select any public service announcement videos. Four of the 10 videos selected for March centered on some form of athletic performance or achievement. These include the number one video, which demonstrates a possibly staged trick performed on a BMW motorcycle, as well as a Pepsi video featuring famous soccer players, a Nike ad highlighting the connection between athletes (both famous and unknown), and an Adidas ad with numerous athletic and non-athletic celebrities.

Two videos featured humor mocking other brands. Sony Playstation directly ridicules the controllers used by rival Microsoft’s Xbox gaming system, and SpecSavers directly parodies the sexist ads from men’s body spray Axe that suggest men who use Axe will have beautiful women in bikinis purse them.

In a return to a trend seen in January 2010, most of last month’s videos were global in theme and featured little or no language. Globally famous celebrities and/or simple yet powerful imagery made these videos easily consumed by viewers anywhere in the world. Most of February 2010’s videos required knowledge of the English language and US or UK popular culture and humor to fully appreciate, which partially reflects the inclusion of several commercials aired during the February 2010 Super Bowl telecast.

The top 10 picks for February, with links to view on YouTube:

1. BMW S1000RR – Dinner Table, agency: n/a
2. Pedigree – Dogs, agency: TBWA
3. Pepsi Max – ‘Oh Africa,’ agency: n/a
4. Nike – The Human Chain, agency: Wieden & Kennedy
5. Adidas Originals – Street Corner, agency: Sid Lee
6. Tropicana – Arctic Sun, agency: BBDO
7. Sprite – Spark, agency: Bartle Bogle Hegarty
8. Sony Playstation – Move, agency: Deutsch
9. Specsavers – ‘The Specs Effect,’ agency: Specsavers Creative
10. Natural Gas Belgium – Soft Heat, agency: TBWA

About the Rankings: goviral issues a monthly top-10 list of viral video rankings on its site, including additional commentary about the videos, their approaches and why the firm thinks they are viral or likely to become viral in the future.

Businesses Split on Paying for Twitter

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The powers that be at Twitter have been vague about how they plan to monetize the service. As marketers have flocked to the microblogging site, Twitter has considered charging for business functionality as one possibility.

According to a survey commissioned by Internet marketing solutions company WebBizIdeas.com, a plurality of business users of Twitter are unsure whether they would pay to use extra business features on the site. About one-quarter said they would.

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Defining what those extra features might be as well as how much they would cost could push less decisive business users into one camp or another. Among respondents who said they would pay, most were willing to spend less than $50 per month.

In addition, 8% of all respondents said they would pay for analytics alone, if Twitter offered that service.

Advertising, another possibility for Twitter monetization, may have more appeal. Businesses were largely uninterested in advertising tactics that would increase their follower count, but nearly seven in 10 respondents said pay-for-performance ads would bring the greatest value for them.

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Defining what those extra features might be as well as how much they would cost could push less decisive business users into one camp or another. Among respondents who said they would pay, most were willing to spend less than $50 per month.

In addition, 8% of all respondents said they would pay for analytics alone, if Twitter offered that service.

Advertising, another possibility for Twitter monetization, may have more appeal. Businesses were largely uninterested in advertising tactics that would increase their follower count, but nearly seven in 10 respondents said pay-for-performance ads would bring the greatest value for them.