For Your Consideration or: How Netflix is Changing the Game Again

February is finally upon us, which means we are just weeks away from the Oscars. All nominees have been announced, and movie marketing goes into overdrive as studios attempt to convince Academy voters why their film should be walking away with one (or maybe 10) of the 24 statuettes, standing at 13.5 inches tall, weighing 8.5 lbs, and going by the name of Oscar. Studios spend huge amounts of money to promote their films, firstly to gain the nomination, and then for the final drive to persuade the voters to give their film the nod. Current estimates have studios spending upwards of $20 million on their Oscar promotional budget, but where is the money spent, who benefits from an Oscar win, and is the budget ultimately a worthy investment?

Swaying The Voters

With a promotional budget often higher than the cost of making the film in the first place, the studios attempt to swing voters in a number of ways

  • screening the film – clearly an important step, this currently takes the form of private screenings, mailing “for your consideration” preview DVDs, and VOD streaming links
  • direct marketing – studios will mail promotional materials, gifts, and anything that introduces some form of originality, directly to the voters’ residences. Cynics may call this bribing the voters. Cynics would be correct…
  • industry advertising – everything from billboards to magazines, industry websites to TV spots – anything to make the film visible wherever the voters go
  • PR – this is where things get juicy – not only do studios ensure that actors and directors involved in their film attend various galas, ceremonies, and award shows, but a large amount of money is paid to lobbyists to hound the press, and at times to cast negative assertions about other contending films

Who Benefits?

The Talent

One of the main beneficiaries of a film picking up Oscars is the talent being honored. Those nominated in the acting categories, directors, cinematographers etc all benefit enormously from winning an award, and all without lifting much of a finger when it comes to a budget spend. After already being paid, modestly or handsomely, to appear in a film, the studios’ push for Oscar nominations includes pushing for the talent involved to be considered. Winning an acting Oscar can mean a huge boost in the actor’s salary demands, especially for younger actors at the beginning of their careers who could see a large increase in what they are paid for future films – consider Jennifer Lawrence, with just an Oscar nomination for “Winter’s Bone” in 2010 where she was paid scale rate of $3000/week – she jumped to $250,000 for “X: First Class” (2011) the following year, $1 million for “The Hunger Games” (2012), and $10 million for “The Hunger Games: Catching Fire” (2013).

The Studio

Studios crave Oscars, probably second only to them craving money. Part of their craving Oscars is of course because it leads to more money. Oscar-winning movies that have limited releases in the November/December timeframe see a big upswing in ticket sales once they have those statuettes in hand, and even films that had a general release see spikes in their ticket sales, although maybe only to the tune of $2 million or so. One of the more unknown factors is how much winning the Oscar means to a studio moving forward with other productions. For smaller studios, taking home wins can be massively important, and push the studio to bigger and better futures, with bigger and better budgets. The likes of A24 and Blumhouse Productions have seen enormous growth in recent years as their films pique the interest of the major film festivals (Blumhouse’s “Get Out” won one of its 4 Oscar nominations last year, when Jordan Peele became the first African American to win the Oscar for Best Original Screenplay.) But for bigger studios, the Oscar effect can be hidden beneath their behemoth stature, so this certainly becomes an X-factor in the value of a win. And speaking of X-factors, we now have to consider the new kid on the block…

Netflix

Ohhhh how the industry does not know how to deal with the streaming giant. The 2019 Oscars sees the first ever Best Picture nomination for a Netflix film, in the glorious black and white form of Alfonso Cuarón’s, “Roma”. Oscar rules state that for a film to be eligible (except for the Best Foreign Language Film, Documentary Feature, Documentary Short Subject), a film must have played for seven consecutive days in the previous calendar year in a theater in Los Angeles, CA. This has ruled Netflix films out in the past, as their films have often been released solely streaming. Not one to want to sit in the background, Netflix released a number of its original films this year in theaters on limited release either before or at the same time they hit their streaming platform with Roma and The Ballad of Buster Scruggs picking up 13 of Netflix’s 15 nominations this year.

They also created history with Alfonso Cuarón becoming the first filmmaker to be nominated for Best Picture, Director, and Cinematography. “Roma” was also just the 5th film in Oscar history to be nominated in both the Best Picture category and Best Foreign Language Film – none of the previous films won Best Picture. If “Roma” does pull off the Best Picture win, it will be the first foreign language film to ever win the award.

Netflix has gone all in on the marketing of “Roma” in the hopes of winning a first Best Picture award for themselves (estimates of a $25 million advertising budget), but so have the other studios – so why are they getting their own section here? Well, it’s because their “is it worth it?” quandry is quite unique. Sure, there is the same benefit to the talent as mentioned above, and in many ways the benefit to the studios outlined is similar – but with one caveat; subscribers. Success for Netflix means not only everything listed above, but it also means they should see a huge spike in their new subscription base. People want to see Oscar films, and the easiest way to see one of the leading contenders is to subscribe to Netflix. While the effect on their subscriber base is yet to be seen, it isn’t difficult to see how their investment in “Roma” could produce a lucrative return. Netflix added 8.8 million global subscribers in Q4 2018 – if we take a modest Oscar spike of 25% in new subscribers for Q1, this would equate to at least an additional 2.2 million new subscribers or around $60 million in the quarter – a healthy return on their investment. This is, of course, a splash in the ocean when considering that in 2019, Netflix plans to spend $15 billion on its content, and will be very much back in the Oscar contention with original content like Martin Scorsese’s crime drama “The Irishman” starring Robert de Niro, and Steven Soderbergh’s “The Laundromat” with Meryl Streep and Gary Oldman.

Marketing Oscar films has always been big business in Hollywood, but as it has done in many other aspects of the industry, Netflix could be about to redefine the way forward, and in doing so give themselves yet another competitive advantage by making Oscar marketing a great investment, for one studio at least.

Removing The Marketing Blindfold Of Netflix’s Bird Box

On the third day of Christmas, my Netflix gave to me… something that it has never done before: it released “viewing figures” for a Netflix Original. On December 28th, Netflix announced on Twitter that 45,037,125 of their account holders watched Bird Box in its first 7 days of release. This is a staggering number when you consider that as of Q3 2018 Netflix had 137.1 million worldwide subscribers, meaning that 1/3 of all subscribers watched Bird Box in its first week.

Clearly a comparison to movie ticket sales is unfair as someone streaming a movie does not equate to someone willing to fork out $9.50 (approximate worldwide average ticket price), but it’s still interesting to note that this would represent a first week box office total of $427.8 million, which would put it $30 million higher than the all-time domestic opening week, held by Star Wars: The Force Awakens. This is an extraordinary success, especially when considering that anywhere up to an estimated 35% of users share their streaming passwords, and that more than one person could be sitting down watching the film, and it all adds up to some mind-blowing numbers.

While some may claim these account figures are dubiously high, the ratings company Nielsen has just backed up these claims, stating that Bird Box had an unduplicated audience of 26 million viewers in its first week (Nielsen measures USA viewing figures only, and with 58 million domestic subscribers, these figures easily match up with the 1/3 of all account holders claim). On its opening day, Nielsen calculated that Bird Box had 3.5 million viewers, which is actually considerably lower than last year’s Will Smith-driven, Bright which managed 5.4 million viewers, but then tapered off only hitting 20 million by the end of its first week.
                                    Credit: Nielsen

In fact, Bird Box was consistently watched by close to 4 million viewers every day for the first 10 days, whereas Bright rapidly declined in viewing figures, down to a little over a million on day 10. This comparison gives us an insight into how Bird Box might have pulled this off, so let’s examine what it takes to create such a success.

Star Power

What did Bird Box have that Bright did not? They both had considerable star power with Sandra Bullock driving the Bird Box machine, and Will Smith leading the way with Bright.

Credit: Netflix

While star power doesn’t hurt a film, it is by no means essential – take another Netflix hit sensation, Stranger Things, to demonstrate that – very little star power, but huge viewership (according to Nielsen, Stranger Things season 2 is the only Netflix Original with a higher unduplicated audience than Bird Box). Star power certainly didn’t hurt either film in drawing viewers to watch on day 1, but does not explain fully why Bird Box succeeded.

Make A Good Movie

Bright, directed by David Ayer (Suicide Squad, Fury) was not well received by critics, managing just 25% positive reviews on Rotten Tomatoes, although viewers seemed to not be so harsh, evidenced by its 6.3/10 average score on IMDb.com.

While Susanne Bier’s Bird Box was certainly more warmly received by critics (63% on Rotten Tomatoes), it only slightly out-paced Bright in terms of the general public (6.7/10 on IMDb). Decent ratings from critics and word of mouth certainly helped Bird Box, but again does not really crack the surface of this smash hit.

Imagery – That Blindfold And Beyond

The seed that seemed to spawn the viral hit that is Bird Box begins with its imagery, and within that, the blindfold. The single promotional images of Bird Box were striking and intriguing – whether it was Sandra Bullock in a river with a child, or in a forest, or a boat – the colors were drained (aka “we’re watching a dystopian movie!”), and everyone was blindfolded (aka “ok, now we’re intrigued!”).

Credit: Netflix

Yes, they plugged these images everywhere – the opening page of Netflix whenever it was launched, billboards, magazines, Times Square – you name it, they advertised there. So Bird Box was not without a huge marketing budget, but then neither was Bright, and that didn’t come close to achieving the success of Bird Box. And so we come back to that image, and the internet takes over…

The Power Of The Meme

Those beautifully striking blindfolded images happened to also be a meme goldmine. Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram blew up with Bird Box memes, and the viral sensation had begun.

Seeing memes about a movie or show that you haven’t seen, that also contains intriguing imagery, drove more and more people to stream the movie, and led to more and more memes. Rumors also started flying that Netflix themselves planted many of the memes, something they deny, but whether they did or didn’t, the ability of such a medium to go viral cannot be understated. The sensation even moved over to the world of the “Internet challenge” – the Bird Box Challenge had internet users videoing themselves doing daily tasks, but blindfolded – what could go wrong? After seeing this, including people driving cars blindfolded, Netflix felt compelled to post a warning for fans of the movie not to perform dangerous tasks while doing the challenge, probably more to attempt to cover their backs than to put any halt on the spread of the viral sensation that was taking place before them.

While it is tricky to identify the precise reason why Bird Box, an averagely reviewed movie, was such a success for Netflix, it is quite clear that the internet streaming giant’s willingness to embrace all forms of social media, combined with an understanding of the visual strengths of the movie they had under their belt and how to put it in front of every subscriber, and of course a huge advertising budget, all played a part in the movie being seen by a record-breaking number of viewers.

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Essential Tips for Surviving the Age of Voice Search

“Voice search is the most significant development to hit SEO since Google debuted.”

That quote may sound like a hot take, but statistics describing the growing usage of voice search resoundingly back it up. 20% percent of all online searches in 2016 were voice searches, according to a Mary Meeker report. Comscore predicts that half of all searches will be made through voice commands by 2020.

Searching using a voice function instead of a keyboard has huge ramifications for your organization’s SEO strategy. For starters, usually only one result is brought up, meaning you have to know exactly what it takes to earn that coveted spot. Secondly, the technical SEO best practices that make you more likely to rank in voice search are fairly different from the typical approach.

Don’t worry, though, because we’re here to break it all down for you right now.

495 DigitalHow Do People Use Voice Search in 2018?

The home is where the majority of consumers make their voice search queries. According to the Content Marketing Institute, 43 percent of people say they most frequently use the feature in their home, versus 36 percent who use it mostly in their car and 19 percent who say they most often use it “on the go.”

This statistic tells you two things:

Those 90 million smart speakers sold annually are changing the way we interact with devices, opening new channels and opportunities that didn’t exist just a few years ago.
The idea that people are mostly going to be using voice search as a hands-free option in their car is partially untrue. Voice search has a number of other benefits that compel people to use it beyond just driving without distraction.

Just what are those benefits, you ask?

  • 30% say that it leads to “faster results.”
  • 24% say they use it because they have “difficulty typing on certain devices”
  • 22% say they use voice search because it’s “fun/cool,”

Bottom line: People want quick answers, and they don’t feel like they need to actually touch a device to get them.

So, how do you accomplish that goal?

Here are some of those SEO voice search tips in detail.

Focus on Semantically Related Keywords Over Exact Query Matches

Take a moment to think about how you would speak an online search query out loud versus how you would type it.

When we type, we often want to get our query as specific as possible while using the fewest possible words. So, we might write something like “best laptop backpack” to find out which bag is most worth buying, and then we’ll likely click around or search again to find the best deal on the said backpack.

But when we talk, we want to be specific without using awkward words or phrase. As a result, we naturally gravitate towards strings of simple, descriptive words that may seem like a long phrase but that are easy to say out loud. We also want to avoid pulling up results that do a different action than we intended since we can’t click or navigate as easily.

According to Google, 70 percent of voice queries the company handles use natural language, which means actual sentences rather than jumbles of words.

One self-study by a smart speaker user found that the average word count of their queries was four.

In response to these trends, your keyword strategy should be less about shoehorning an exact match keyword in and more about covering all of the bases of your topic. Try to include phrases that you might think are things people would ask about your topic or product.

FAQs are Pure Gold

Studies show the average voice search result is only 29 words in length. Yet, the average word count of a voice search result page is 2,312 words!

Why go through all the trouble of writing thousands of words about something if a search engine’s just going to yank out a tiny sliver of that?

The answer is that the best content often covers several bases, as we suggested above. They go in-depth, explore lots of angles and reveal lots of information. A voice query, however, only needs a small part of that information. Accordingly, content that has voice results pulled from it tends to have pithy, quotable phrases.

Because quotable “sound bites” are the preferred information to pull results from, FAQs (frequently asked questions) absolutely rule for improving your voice search rank. To make these pages, you can source common questions about your industry or your business from the following:

● Google’s “Other People Searched” and “Searches Related to ___” suggestions
● Long-tail keyword suggestions from keyword planning tools
● AnswerThePublic.com
● Your own customers! Write down questions as you hear them, or look to resources like emails, feedback forms or HR reports.

Other Voice Search SEO Tips

Here are a few more helpful tidbits before we send you on your way:

● 70 percent of Google Home results use HTTPS instead of HTTP, so get your certificate!
● Authoritative domains tend to earn more results, so try to earn backlinks (ethically) through guest posting and social media amplification.
● The best-performing content tends to have high social media engagement, especially Facebook shares.
● Aim for a 9th grade reading level so your content is easy for a voice assistant to parse and read out loud.
● Earning a featured snippet makes you more likely to rank, but Schema markup isn’t necessarily important.

Beyond these tips, simply focus on creating great content that answers people’s questions quickly, and you could see improved voice search results!

 

6 Practices for Developing a Solid 2019 Marketing Budget

The world of marketing is an ever-changing, continually-evolving landscape. Algorithms change, tactics adapt based on new information, and so the marketing practices that accompany your specific strategies must change as well. There’s very little chance that your marketing plan in 2018 looks the same as your marketing plan for 2017 — and your plan for 2019 will look different again.

Still, there are a few essential elements that you should keep in mind when developing your marketing strategy for 2019.

  1. State Your Goals

A business without goals is like an airplane without a destination: If you don’t know where you’re going, how will you ever know that you’ve arrived? State your goals clearly for the entire team to review constantly, and then adjust your strategy throughout the year as you adapt to the conditions at hand. While this may seem simple, it’s surprising how many companies actually fail to align their sales goals with their marketing strategies. Businesses that intentionally connect the two see higher customer retention and conversion rates as a result.

  1. Develop a Budget

Though creating a budget for marketing can sometimes come last after inventory, payroll, and a host of other expenses for your company, you’ll still need to put thought into how much you’re able to commit in order to keep up with – and ultimately pass – your competitors. Digital marketing spend, for instance, will continue to grow at a healthy rate, so make sure you’re not shorting your marketing team by refusing to allocate the necessary resources for them to deploy. Take a look back at the budgets in years past and learn what worked and what didn’t. Prop up those things that generated the best ROI, and ditch the ones that didn’t.

  1. Consider Video and Mobile

Video is today what pictures were a few years ago. While text-only advertisements went the way of the Dodo generations ago, pictures are also being replaced by video ads on social media and video sharing websites like YouTube. They don’t have to be exceptionally long either – sometimes only 15-30 seconds is enough – but they can increase your conversion rates substantially. The same can be said for mobile-friendly devices. Though nobody visits your site simply because it’s available on their smartphones, a poor mobile experience can be enough to turn them off indefinitely.

  1. Don’t Neglect Alternative Marketing

Account-Based Marketing (ABM) is a rising star in the B2B world, precisely because it allows you to track the most valuable business relationships and cultivate them for maximum return. Word-of-Mouth is another powerful form of marketing. Though not “new” in the sense that ABM is, utilizing industry leaders and influencers that can vouch for your product can still return a significant boost to your bottom line.

  1. Embrace the Numbers

Your Business Intelligence (BI) is everything. Don’t be afraid to dive into the analytics for your various campaigns and optimize them across the board; only by continually tracking your progress can you eliminate unnecessary spending. Furthermore, artificial intelligence software such as chatbots can direct customers down your sales funnel and track your efforts more efficiently than a team of humans sometimes can.

  1. Stick to the Fundamentals

Since the marketing landscape changes so rapidly, it’s tempting to latch onto every new technique and trick that you see. While you should always try new things, don’t forget the basics: SEO, SEM, social media, content marketing, etc. These are the backbones of any digital marketing strategy; it’s imperative that you don’t neglect them in favor of shiny new objects that everyone else seems to love.

Why You Should Consider the Threat of Cyber Crime in Your Digital Marketing Strategy

Like it or not, we live in a world that is fraught with danger. As such, it’s imperative that we take the necessary precautions in order to keep ourselves as secure as possible. If you have an online business, it’s even more important, for the safety of both you, your business, and your team.

If you’re in the middle of forming an online marketing strategy, don’t forget to include a variety of safety measures as well. Here are a few ways hackers love to attack people the most and what to do to protect yourself.

Through Your Website

Nearly every business in the world uses some form of Content Management System (CMS) to allow them to upload various forms of content to their website. For most, this includes using the WordPress platform – a very user-friendly interface that is also, unfortunately, very familiar to nefarious individuals who can easily exploit it.

Fortunately, you don’t have to worry about shutting down every single attack as much as you do making yourself less appealing as a target. To do this, remember to update your site frequently and add in some security plug-ins to put more barriers between you and the thieves. Moreover, keep your CMS free from public wi-fi spots that are unsecured and very vulnerable and change the login URL to something other than the standard /wp-admin. Even a little bit of concealment can go a long way.

One extra bit of advice. If your website is in the business of retaining customer information – which nearly every business is – install an SSL on your site to encrypt that info and reassure visitors that they can trust you. As soon as that customer info isn’t needed, delete it completely.

Through Your Email

One of the favorite places for hackers to set up shop is inside of your e-mail system. If they’re able to get control of one of your accounts, they’ll be able to send infected emails to your entire list, which will shut down servers and get your address blacklisted from every e-mail client in existence.

Look for e-mail software that monitors and provides encrypted security for all of your incoming messages, and set up filters on your outgoing messages that will flag certain phrases and malware and report them directly to you. In addition, train your staff to look for suspicious messages and files.

Through Your Social Media

Social media is one of those channels that hackers love to exploit the most, simply because most people browsing have their guard let down. A funny video, a simple downloaded file, and before you know it, your entire system is compromised.

Like with e-mail, train your staff to spot suspicious add-ons or applications, and have a system in place that allows them to report posts that may damage your company’s reputation as a result of hijacked accounts. Use strong passwords, and if possible, appoint a select few people to handle the company’s profiles. Keeping the number of people that have access to your info will help minimize the risk of invasion.

Though the threat of hijacking is very real and ever-present in our society, the reality is that with a few simple changes, you can exponentially decrease your risk of being affected. It won’t make the danger go completely away, but if it saves even one more attack from happening, the process will be worth it.

Want to Improve Your Digital Marketing? Check Out What Your Competitors are Doing

Mavericks owner and tech billionaire Mark Cuban has a book entitled “How to Win at the Sport of Business,” whereas he parallels the competitive spirit within an industry to that of a baseball or basketball game. While there are major differences between those two ideas, the point is the same: Business is a competition, and in order to win, you have to know and beat your opponent.

In years past, one of the primary ways that businesses would try to one-up each other is through price. Lower the price, and your competitors will naturally gravitate towards you. That’s not the case anymore; if you want to pull ahead, you have to not only understand what products and services your competitors are promoting but how they’re promoting it as well. This involves everything, from your branding to your customer service to your mission statement and everything in between.

Since strong competition is one of the major causes of a business failing, you’ll have to pay attention to who you’re positioned next to in search results and paid advertising. How do you do that? Simple.

1. Learn About Your Opponents

In the beginning of your company life cycle, you may be all alone in your niche. Either you’re the only one selling a particular product, or you’re the only one solving a particular problem. Eventually, though, other people will take notice and begin to come after your clientele. In fact, only one-third of businesses are still in existence a decade after they open up the doors. If you want to make sure you’re not part of that statistic, you have to keep your eyes open to the playing field.

In the digital sphere, your competitors are the ones that are positioned next to you in the SERP’s (Search Engine Results Page) or are the ones seeking to solve the same problem that your product or service does. If there’s no major competitors, that’s great, but use the time to shore up your branding and position yourself as a perennial market leader. If you do notice that others are beginning to encroach on your territory, start studying their practices and taking notes.

2. Exploit Their Weaknesses

Once you’ve studied your competitors thoroughly, you need to start looking for vulnerabilities in their marketing that you can exploit. Below are a few places to look specifically:

Links: Do they have broken links all over their webpage? Are they working on developing backlinks? Do they have any backlinks at all? If not, this could be an excellent place to start.
Social Media: Though most businesses have caught up to the idea that they need to be active on social media, not every business is doing this effectively. Customer engagement is a big part of this, and if your competitors aren’t doing it, emphasize that with your customers.
SEO: Are your competitors up to date on the latest SEO best practices? Make a list of their on and off-page SEO metrics and compare them to your own, including local SEO as well.
Conversion Rate: Look at their landing pages and advertisements and notice their copy. What are they missing? What could you offer that’s better?

Conclusion

Learning from your competitors isn’t rocket science, but in order to pull ahead in the market for your specific niche, you have to study your opponents and take advantage of every opportunity that’s presented to you. Competitors may be out to take some of your customers away from you, but that doesn’t mean they can’t be a force for good either.

495 Digital

Chatbots: All Hype or Truly Revolutionary?

Facebook has changed the digital marketing world in so many ways. Apart from its robust advertising platform that allows businesses to target their ideal customer base within specific geographic and demographic parameters, one otherwise-overlooked feature is also gaining traction: Facebook Messenger.

Though normally reserved for personal communications, companies have started to develop chatbots to act as virtual assistants, sales personnel, or even just as an extra set of hands to perform tedious tasks. And lest you think this is some kind of marketing gimmick, data suggests that they’re incredibly efficient. JP Morgan Chase, for example, was able to eliminate over 350,000 hours of tedious review time simply by employing bots in their business.

What Are Chatbots?

Simply put, chatbots are automated messaging systems that mimic human conversations through a pre-programmed set of cues and responses. They can be deployed through a medium like Facebook messenger or act as a virtual customer service agent on a website. They’re non-invasive, somewhat-personal, and highly efficient in taking customers through a variety of sales funnels.

Despite their apparent simplicity, chatbots are highly intelligent, taking the information that is given to them by the customer and processing it quickly to move them to the proper department or make appropriate suggestions. They can even provide customer service; If a user has a problem with a product, the chatbot can guide them through a how-to of how to fix the issue at hand.

What Benefits Do Chatbots Offer Businesses?

The benefits to automating various parts of your business is already well-known, but chatbots allow a level of efficiency that makes it a step above.

  • Save Money: Though you could hire a developer to create a chatbot for you (which is much less expensive than it used to be), there are also a host of software solutions that can create them for you.
  • Automate Processes: Everything that can be automated should in a bid to save time, and chatbots help with that process tremendously. They can handle hundreds of different requests at one time, instead of paying an entire customer service department to do the same thing.
  • Room to Grow: One of the best things about chatbots is they don’t overwhelm the user with a myriad of different services, but they also have the potential to do so much more than what they’re currently used for. Once you have them set up and your customers are used to them, you’ll be able to add functionality at will.

What are the Common Types of Chatbots?

There are generally two types of chatbots: simple and complex. Simple chatbots follow a pre-programmed script and very rarely deviate from it, while complex chatbots have the ability to learn from each conversation and develop better responses for future customers. It’s not as sophisticated as some artificial intelligence systems, but it’s far superior to a simple script-based chatbot.

Beyond this, chatbots can also speak to an individual user in a one-on-one conversation or respond to an entire team that is communicating with the chatbots. Moreover, some chatbots are also domain-specific, and can provide a user with unprompted promotional materials or help them navigate the website.

Regardless of what chatbots are used for, there’s no doubting their necessity, both now and in the future. How they’re employed will continue to evolve, but they provide a level of revenue-generating functionality that far surpasses a number of other endeavors.

The Power of Social Belonging… and Why Your Brand Should be Leveraging Online Reviews

As humans, we love feeling like we’re part of a community. Whether that means interacting with our real-life friends on social media or making comments on a forum thread about a shared movie interest, the more we engage other people, the more integrated we feel.

And with the advent of the internet age, the ability to connect with others has never been easier. Studies have shown that the stronger a person feels the need to belong, the more apt they are to share their opinions, either in an effort to persuade others or to hear their own voice in a larger community.

Taking it a step further, the Journal of Consumer Behavior focused in on this trait in one of their issues to point out the connection to the business world: “[The need to belong]…fostered the desire to talk to others about their preferred brand.”

One of the best ways customers can “talk to others about their preferred brand” is by leaving reviews, and if your business isn’t encouraging people to do precisely that, you’re missing out on a ton of opportunities.

Why are reviews such a big deal?

Reviews Give People a Voice

Online reviews give people an opportunity to voice their opinion about their experiences with your business, whether positive or negative; the more extreme their opinions are, the more of a psychological kick they get in telling other people about their experience. A person that received an exceptionally poor episode will feel a sense of vindication in telling other people about it, while those who had an amazing time will want to include others in their joy.

But reviews do more than just give the person delivering them a feeling of satisfaction, they also play a huge role in determining whether or not other people will want to visit your business as well. The statistics backing up this point are nearly endless, but according to one study, over 90% of people look up reviews before visiting a business, and 72% make that decision with fewer than six reviews. What’s more is 69% of people feel like reviews older than three months are not really relevant to the current situation.

Reviews Are Better Than Any Other Type of Advertising

Let’s face it: People trust their friends more than they trust any kind of advertisement they may see. For starters, the person leaving their opinion isn’t getting paid by the company to put forth any kind of image, so what a person sees in a review is a raw, unfiltered look at a real-world experience.

It also allows the person reading the review to shape their own experience about what they’re reading. Traditional advertisements shape the narrative of what the user is seeing, whether that’s a story, promotion, or something else entirely. Reviews are usually written by people with no particular end goal in mind, and since there are potentially hundreds to look at, the user is able to formulate his or her own impression of what the business is actually like. Siphoning through the reviews, they make up their own mind as to what’s appropriate and what’s not.

Reviews Promote Transparency

Normally, the goal for every business is to have every customer receive a perfect experience and share it on social media or review sites after they leave. A string of 5-star scores across the table will only enhance the company image, right?

Wrong.

Call it skepticism or jadedness, but customers are starting to look at a company that looks flawless online with a sideways eye, believing that either the company has paid for positive reviews or is encouraging their employees to do so. It’s not unheard of for a business to do either of those, so having a few negative experiences sprinkled in gives your business a sense of authenticity that it needs to validate the positive reviews.

Look at these negative experiences as a way for your business to improve. How you respond to the bad reviews says a lot more about your business than the fact that you received them in the first place.

Are you defensive?

Do you make personal attacks or accusations in response?

Do you ignore them completely?

Respond in such a way that shows you care about what people think, and future customers will respond in kind.

Jaw Dropping Stats That Will Make You Want to Take a Second Look at Pinterest

One of the best ways for brands to expand their consumer bases is through digital marketing, and while most people think of such online marketing in relation to major social networks like Twitter and Facebook, Pinterest is actually an exceptionally valuable tool for marketing.

Stats on Pinterest

Not only can individuals create accounts with Pinterest, but businesses can as well. There are a wide number of positive statistics that show why Pinterest is such a powerhouse in the marketing world.

  • 176 million registered profiles
  • 42% of the US adult women use Pinterest
  • 150 million active users
  • 80 million active monthly users from outside the US
  • 84% people on Pinterest use the website across multiple devices
  • 72% people on Pinterest use this platform to determine what to buy offline
  • 85% of users are women
  • 70 million active monthly users from the US
  • 87% Pinners have purchased a product because of Pinterest
  • 83% users would rather follow a brand or company than a celebrity
  • 75 billion pins
  • 70% of sales due to promoted pins are from new customers
  • 55% shoppers claim Pinterest is their favorite social media platform

Below are a few reasons why Pinterest is so effective as a marketing tool.

Conversion Rates

When a viewer on the Pinterest platform sees your work, it is far easier for them to be converted into a customer than it is through other social networks like Facebook or Twitter. You’d have to pay for a higher tier of advertising on those platforms in order to get the same sort of visibility.

Higher Traffic

Any business that relies heavily on internet-based sales wants to receive as much traffic as possible for the highest possible revenues. Pinterest is good at generating this sort of traffic around your site thanks to the way it links everything together.

The Power of Micro-Influencers

If you’ve never heard of micro-influencers, be prepared to hear more about them in the future. This idea is that a customer for a brand that has a lot of influence in the online sphere can actually promote the brand to their followers. Since Pinterest is more of a visual search engine than a social network, micro-influencers can create permanent viral content easily.

Infinite Pins

There is no news feed in Pinterest that favors newer content over older. It works based on searches and the discovery method, so Pins that were created years ago are just as relevant as those created today. This means you don’t have to worry about updating your page with new content just to avoid blending into the background.

Greater Inbound Linking

Linking is one of the linchpins of digital marketing, and Pinterest is one of the easiest platforms to use effective backlinks. Each Pin you post will include a link to the source from which the content was originally gleaned. As a business, this means that every piece of content you produce will be easily accessible by those searching for such content through re-Pins.

Macro-Influencers

Pinterest is useable as a micro-influencer and macro-influencer platform at the same time. Macro-influencers include those who are exceptionally prominent in both the online and real-world realms, like celebrities or politicians.

Conclusion

Pinterest is exceptionally valuable as a social media network and as a marketing tool because of the way it’s different from other such platforms. By properly using Pinterest, you can put your brand or service in front of a large audience seeking exactly what you offer.

improve-app-performance

Engaging Your Alumni With GeoDirect

A New Way to Engage Your Alumni

We’ve all received the cold calls, seen the generic emails, and the snail mail with pictures of happy students and a return address for donations.

This has been the extent of alumni engagement for the last 80+ years.

Did it work? Yes.

Does it work today? Nope.

Alumni engagement is the lowest it has ever been, right around 9% in the U.S. Although the situation appears grim, many schools have started evolving their alumni outreach campaign with innovative technology. And they’re reporting resounding success.

One way schools have been able to reach their alumni is through digital canvassing. Through powerful platforms, like GeoDirect, schools can directly reach their graduates through hyper accurate IP targeting using advanced digital canvassing ad technology.

How GeoDirect Works

The process begins by harnessing the power of offline data.  GeoDirect is a patented IP targeting software that matches physical addresses with IP addresses, enabling advertisers to deliver their messages with pinpoint precision to the right person, at the exact time of your choosing.

Rather than casting a wide net over a targeted demographic or geographic location, GeoDirect ad campaigns are directly targeted and delivered to predetermined households and audiences — in this case, alumni.

An ad campaign that’s launched under the helm of GeoDirect delivers results that speak (and pay) for themselves.

Why Use GeoDirect? A Case Study

In 2017, we partnered with Gonzaga College High School, an all-boys Catholic school in Washington, D.C.

They were looking for a new, unconventional way to reach their alumni and increase incoming donations.

We worked with Gonzaga to develop an integrated approach to reach graduates and other potential donors during the school’s Annual Fund campaign. After a series of meetings, we helped them develop a new design concept for print advertising, as well as for online display ads that were directed mail recipients in specific households.

Using the addresses Gonzaga provided to us, we put GeoDirect to work. Its targeting system matched all of those physical addresses with IP addresses. So every person who received a piece of traditional mail from Gonzaga was also shown an online ad soliciting donations.

GeoDirect helped make the connection between what alumni received at home in their mailboxes, and the ads they saw on their computers. It’s a proven way to increase campaign engagement and effectiveness. And, for Gonzaga… it worked.

What Other Industries Use GeoDirect?

GeoDirect can be used in virtually any industry that can benefit from more precise and effective marketing and advertising. GeoDirect has been effectively used to enhance results for the following types of organizations.

  • Non-Profits & Charities
  • Healthcare
  • Insurance
  • Financial Services
  • Hospitality
  • Restaurants
  • Home Services
  • Automotive
  • Sports & Events
  • Real Estate
  • Retail & Consumer Products
  • Political
  • Legal
  • Government Contractors

It’s time to supplement your direct mail campaign! Contact us today to find out how we can put GeoDirect to work for you.