How Twitter’s search trial could see new revenues, too

Twitter has this week made a few tweaks to its homepage and search function that will make it easier to find news on the social networking site.

Over the past few years Twitter has proved itself as not just a real-time information network that connects users to the latest stories, ideas, opinions and news.

To solidify its position as a breaking news platform, Twitter has added a ‘Top News’ section at the top of search results to showcase relevant recent news articles about a certain topic.

The site has also added a ‘Top People’ window that will showcase Twitter users that correspond with search queries.

Both the Top News and Top People windows appear when a user has conducted a search within Twitter.

This is good news for brands, especially for those who are news and Twitter savvy.

Today, I typed in ‘McDonald’s’ and straight away, Twitter threw up two ‘people’ to follow called ‘McDonald’s’. These were McDonald’s USA and McDonald’s New York.

The term ‘Jubilee’ brought up an abundance of global news articles about the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee and the British Monarchy’s Twitter profile.

The changes aren’t huge, however they are a step in the right direction for Twitter who has longed tried to establish itself as a one-stop-shop – search and social media.

It will also be an incredibly valuable marketing tool for publishers.

Publishers will expect to see a lot more traffic from Twitter if they manage to get their content appearing in that top slot. A good knowledge and use of SEO will be more essential than ever when posting those 140 character headlines.

And this could also be an area that Twitter could look to make revenue out of, perhaps going down a similar route to Google and selling search terms (although this would surely have to be reset on a daily basis).

For now though, this is an experiment only a small percentage of users can see.

So you’ve gone social. What now?

You may think that social media has taken over the world, and with Facebook’s recent New York Stock Exchange debut you’d be forgiven for believing it too. However, new research from Satmetrix reveals that it is actually only a small percentage of both business-to-consumer and business-to-business companies that have fully given it to the opportunities that the social web offers.

The research from the cloud-based customer experience software maker found that 60% of businesses do not have an integrated social media strategy.

For those businesses that do include social media in their marketing strategies, 39% have no social media tracking in place at all – so they have no way of telling whether or not their activity has been successful, or worse, a complete and utter failure.

Furthermore, 67% do not measure or quantify social media. So what is the point in having a social media channel in the first place?

Richard Owen, chief executive officer, Satmetrix, explains: “Businesses recognise the need for a social media strategy, however many are challenged in putting an effective strategy in place.

“While 77% of consumers post about products, 67% of businesses have no means of measuring what is being said and less than one in 20 have any insight into the sentiment of what is being said. This is both a huge threat and a massive lost opportunity. Not only are companies running the risk of losing customers by not addressing their issues shared online but they are also walking past the opportunity to capitalise on positive comments made on the social web.”

And speaking of missed opportunities, more than half (55%) of companies ignore customers who are using social media platforms as a means of providing feedback and comments about products and services.

Why? Because social media channels don’t look after themselves, businesses need someone at the controls viewing every comment and replying and engaging where necessary.

There are dozens of social media monitoring tools that businesses can use to measure their audiences and to some extent, engagement, including Satmetrix’s SparkScore.

But really, the best form of monitoring comes from people within your business who can respond rapidly to enquiries and feedback and more importantly, respond in a human way.

Fans want to talk to the people behind the brands and they want individual responses. They want to be heard and valued as someone who is helping to make your business a success – and why shouldn’t they be rewarded with a two-way conversation?

It isn’t always possible to respond to everyone all the time, but responding to some will encourage more engagement with your channels and pages. Whether it is the responsibility of the marketing team, a dedicated community manager or your CEO or MD, your social media channels and fans deserve attention and can’t succeed without it.

How technology will save the retail sector

You’ve probably heard from the naysayers that online shopping is killing the retail industry. I believe that the opposite is true. Online shopping has not only saved the industry and encouraged spend, it has completely revitalized the retail marketplace.

And now, by harnessing technology to enhance the shopping experience, some of the world’s biggest retail brands could see their revenues sky rocket with additional sales of £235m by 2014, according to new research from Conlumino, commissioned by eBay.

That’s a potential direct boost of £2.4bn for the retail industry as a whole over the next two years.

The research highlights that the retail industry is on the cusp of a “third wave” of technological revolution. The first, of course, was online, the second being mobile.

However the third wave will encompass more than one technology – it’ll be a whole new basket of goodies.

First on the shopping list is Interactive TV. Analysts predict that by the end of 2014, one in four (25%) people will regularly use interactive TV to shop.

Bringing together TV and the internet will generate nearly £750m worth of direct sales by the end of 2014. The good news is this isn’t as far away as it sounds.

Microsoft has been busily working away at interactive TV for some years and is looking for advertisers to endorse products used in programming already.

The other technologies that will come to the fore over the next two years include the much hyped platform, Augmented Reality (AR) and Image Recognition.

AR enables consumers to bring the real and virtual worlds together by overlaying digital information onto real products, spaces and places. This will range from allowing shoppers to view 3D projections of products that aren’t physically present or allowing them to virtually try on clothes. Sounds futuristic but this technology has been around as long as iPhones have been.

Image recognition will allow existing devices to identify consumers or objects based on their attributes. Consumers could perform visual searches for products they point their devices at, and more significantly micro QR codes could replace barcodes and help retailers bridge the gap between tracking on and offline behaviour.

Lastly, smart devices will become more integrated into our daily lives and our menial tasks.

Our everyday pocket technology, such as smartphones and tablets are still evolving and our appliances are increasingly becoming more intelligent and empowered too. For example, Panasonic has an air conditioner that you can turn on and off from any location using your smartphone while there are even some refrigerators that can make recommendations on what food you need to buy when next visiting the supermarket. Imaging that linking up with your local Sainsbury’s and coming home to those groceries delivered to your door. Again, this isn’t very far away from becoming reality.

Angus McCarey, UK Retail Director for eBay, agrees that we are entering a period of transformation in the retail sector.

He believes that consumers are driving the change as they demand more choice, more interactivity, specialist knowledge and price transparency.

“Third wave technologies are about meeting those demands and presenting information back to consumers in ways that haven’t been possible before: using virtual reality to try clothes on, or watching your favourite show on TV and buying the box set at the same time,” said McCarey.

“The opportunity for the retail industry over the next two years lies in identifying which technologies will yield the most return on investment. But it’s tough because it means thinking differently about what is driving sales – individual technologies or even individual stores may not yield significant direct sales, but their value may lie in customer engagement and brand loyalty.”

However, retail analyst at Conlumino, Neil Saunders, warns that retailers have work to do in order to catch up with such consumer demand.

He explains: “Retail is changing as the focus shifts from the channel to the consumer. Brands need to move their thinking from channels, loosely comprising of stores, online and mobile, which will become less relevant as new technologies continue to blur the lines.

“Channel convergence was born out of the rise of mobile a couple of years ago and is set to accelerate at an unprecedented rate. Just as major players adopted mobile, they must invest in these new technologies now if they are not to limit growth in the coming years.”

And while the technology is all in place to make our shopping lives easier, there are still a few barriers to making all of these a reality now – adoption and adaptation.

By investing in these technologies now, retailers could see sales growth of up to 4% by 2014. It doesn’t sound like much, but compared to flat or minimal growth many have experienced over the past few years it’s certainly a reason to spend money to make money.

What changed PR?

“There’s more to PR than media relations,” one PR managing director recently told me. Of course I know this, but thought it was interesting she would tell me – to reiterate her point as if defending it.

Who would have thought? PR is not just about writing press releases and calling journalists about an “exciting, fantastical story for you today”.

She had reason to bring it up. PR has forever been perceived as a press release and or a media launch – a fancy soiree involving champagne, canapés and something ‘stunt-ish’ to draw attention to a particular product, feat or milestone.

When I think back to some of the PR launches I’ve been too, many fall into this category. Most instances I can’t even remember why I was there – I do remember some fantastic synchronised swimmers at the Haymarket hotel and a drunken performance by Lily Allen at some Soho bar.

Big and fancy and I enjoyed myself, but what was the point?

PR is moving (and for the most part, has moved) beyond these ‘one off experiences’ that are designed to impress journalists so much that they then go away and write about it. It’s no longer about showing people how ‘fancy’ you are by having a ‘do’ at some cool place in London.

It is though, still about the experience. However, the audience has changed – as has the medium.

Digital, as you already know, has changed the marketing industry for ever. And this medium has made it more important than ever to involve your consumers – future and present – in your activities. Because if you don’t, they’ll find a way to find you and it may not always work out in a desirable way.

Worse – people talk. Online, everywhere.

Secondly, the PR industry has taken the ‘media’ out of media launch and it’s all in the name of strategy.

Media still come to the party of course. But PR has reinvented itself as a strategic arm of their clients’ business to become a trusted advisor, a consultant…a strategic fixer-upperer.

From the recession – and further impending doom – we all learnt that marketing was the first head on the chopping block. The worst hit was PR. Why? Because the industry often saw PR as the ‘nice to have’, slice of the marketing pie.

These days, there are brands that rely on PR and PR only as their entire marketing strategy and there are PR accounts being won that are worth millions of pounds. Because, somehow in all the mess, PR made itself ruthlessly relevant in the very time of need. And it wasn’t anything to do with a launch or a press release.

PR is very much seen as an extension of the advertising campaign. It is lead by an entirely different strategy – whether that be about corporate profiling, perceptions, digital engagement, sponsorship or simply an interview on GMT.

PR is not and never was advertising. It is a focused effort to gain and maintain positive, continuing relationships with people that influence a client’s specific sphere of existence.

It is as valuable as any other marketing activity – if not more. And the new PR is here to stay.

How to get more Twitter followers

If you’ve ever set up a Twitter profile for your brand and then excitedly followed hundreds of people willing them to follow you back only to be disappointed, Fame is for you.

We’re not suggesting you go out and get your self a hit record and then cover yourself in a dress of red meat – we’re talking about the new Twitter game Fame.

Fame is a Twitter game designed to get you more Twitter followers, and much like Fame itself, it works on luck.

How it works is, you sign up Fame via its website and then everyday a lucky winner is selected and everyone who has signed up so far will automatically follow the winner.

The next day a new winner is selected and the old winner is automatically unfollowed. These means the Fame only lasts for a day. But hey, its more than a mere 15 minutes and brands, frankly, can do a lot in a day.

The logic is that if people like what you have to say while they are forced into following you, they will follow on their own. Think of it as a ‘try before you buy’ type scenario for consumers…or Tweeters.

Yesterday the winner had 1300 followers. Yes it may be risky, but the site has aspirations of gaining enough followers for the winners as Lady Gaga, who has upwards of 21 million Twitter followers.

Is Kodak really out of the picture?

I feel sad for Kodak. A brand that defined an entire industry has been beaten by evolution.

But digital isn’t responsible for its demise; it was Kodak’s resistance to it and other change that saw the final nail in the coffin called bankruptcy.

Having never quite capitalised on the digital technology it pioneered, Kodak stood firmly behind its stand alone stores and print offers – trying to push its film brand.

Kodak, say analysts, also misunderstood the new ways consumers in which consumers wanted to interact with their photos. I hate to make this judgement, but it seems to have been the Yahoo of the photo world. Laughing in the face of competition and resting on the laurels that the brand was once the best in its field – surely that would be enough. And what about our loyal customers?

For a brand that created “moments” it certainly struck the rest of the world as odd when it left itself out of the picture. Indeed, missing the digital moment that would thrust it into the future.

Another aspect of that was online photo publishing, printing services that delivered prints to your door and department stores joining the bandwagon, printing photos for a few pence a shot.

Indeed, there were many things that went wrong for Kodak, but no real reason why it couldn’t have caught up if it tried.

Yet, even in bankruptcy, Kodak boasts some enviable strengths: a golden brand, technology firepower that includes a rich collection of photo patents and more than US$4 billion in annual sales of digital cameras, printers and inks.

It’ll be an interesting one to watch with some speculating that a revival isn’t completely out of the question.

But it sure would take one hell of a marketing effort to restore any faith in the brand.

For now, we’ll wait and see. In the meantime, here are some cute “moments” from a brand that will always be remembered as a pioneer, a ‘titan’ of the photographic and printing industry.

Not even Rihanna could save it…I guess it was love in a hopeless place.

What’s next for Yahoo?

Jerry Yang has gone – the pioneer of Yahoo, a guy that can be credited with bringing the internet to masses. Well, maybe that is a bit extreme, but he did change the way we communicate on the internet. In my eyes, he was first.

From 1995 until the early 2000s Yahoo reigned the internet search landscape and was the first online navigational guide to the web. Now Google may argue with that, as it has been around since late 1998, but Google as a start-up didn’t attract as much investment capital as Yahoo and took a little longer to get operations off the ground…and online.

In the early days, Silicon Valley investors pitched in US$2 million for Yahoo. Google attracted just US$100,000, initially. Six months later it got an extra US$25 million – making the Yahoo the underdog.

In most movies, the underdog wins. It is who we back, not just out of sympathy, but usually because we see so much untapped potential.

That is how we will always see Yahoo – an underdog with a lot of potential.

It has been a struggle for Yahoo – there is no denying that. Especially over the past few years which has seen the great Carol Bartz – whom originally replaced Jerry as CEO of Yahoo – pushed in and out as quick as you can say, well, Yahoo; share prices dips, shareholders causing a stir and profits plunging as the economy exercises its relentless payback.

The “global internet communications, commerce and media company that offers a comprehensive branded network of services to more than 345 million individuals each month worldwide” somehow lost its groove soon after the turn of the millennium.

Perhaps they should have opted for Microsoft’s offer in 2008 of US$44 billion. But no one saw the dotcom crash coming, or subsequent enduring financial crisis – even September 11 had an impact.

Yahoo’s current market value stands at about US$20 billion. Its localised partnerships in a variety of markets have seen advertising revenues jump and services boosted but it simply isn’t enough to mark a return to its heyday.

In a letter to Yahoo’s chairman of the board, Yang said he was leaving Yahoo to pursue “other interests outside of Yahoo”.

Perhaps it is time Jerry had a break. It’s been a long hard run.

But without Jerry’s passion, his protective watch over the company he built from the ground up, can Yahoo continue to survive?

Some analysts have said that Jerry has been an impediment to the sale or restructuring of the business. In addition to leaving the board, he is also giving up his title of “Chief Yahoo”, which may give CEO Scott Thomson a bit more freedom. If not more pressure from shareholders.

For me, Yahoo is a household name. I have Yahoo mail, I love my localised Yahoo7 (partnership with Channel 7 here in Australia) and I love all the other ‘channels’ they have on their homepage – a real one-stop shop for news and everything else when I get into the office in the morning.

However, what does a search and advertising company need with Flickr, Yahoo Greetings, Yahoo Personals, Del.icio.us, Yahoo Pets, Blo.gs, Upcoming.org, Yahoo Music, Yahoo 360, or Horoscopes?

Such services have offered little value to Yahoo over the years.

The company has spent its time and resources maintaining services with a huge, financially unjustified overhead; all the while, its search market share continues to dwindle.

To remain a profitable business, Yahoo needs to refocus on the search market. They reckon the global search market is worth about US$11 billion a year. Yahoo should now concentrate its efforts on taking a bigger slice of that very big pie.

So long Jerry and thanks for everything.

How to be a digital ninja in 2012

Looking to bolster your digital capabilities in 2012? There’s only one device you’ll need, and finally it is your mobile.

We’ve published many a headline over the years to the effect of “Is this the year of mobile?”

While we’ve all waited eagerly – knowing the broad capabilities our pocket devices hold – we have been disappointed year and year again.

But finally, it seems like 2012 is it for mobile.

And we’ve not waited because there hasn’t been cool stuff on mobile until now, we’ve just all been so caught up with devices that have come since mobile.

You have to remember that mobile is an old platform – reinvigorated perhaps by replacing ‘mobile’ with ‘smart’. The year of the smartphone has dawned.

Why?

Our insistent need to be socially connected at all times. But not only is social growing, content is.

Facebook currently boasts 800 million users worldwide. Of those, 350 million are using Facebook mobile – sharing news clips, photos and blogs.

We’ve said content is King before, but this will ring true more than ever in 2012 as internet users shy away from simple status updates.

Branded apps are also on the rise as smartphone take up steadily increases and the naysayers of the iPhone, HTC, iPads and other smart devices join the life of the living.

Brands have been trying to get into the pockets of consumers for years, but there has always been a challenge for some to do it in an organic, fun and engaging way.

So with the huge growth in online shopping outside of eBay, there’s never been a better time.

With this, brands will also become more creative when it come to geo-location platforms and there will be a smoother, more complete social integration.

I had never quite realised how much my phone could do until I was given an iPhone 4 recently. But it wasn’t until after my laptop and iPad were stolen in a break and enter until I realised I could actually do everything I wanted and needed to do from my phone – my iPhone 4.

I think others are starting to notice also…especially brands and marketers.

I can’t even catch public transport with checking the app to see how long I have to wait, go to dinner without checking out Yelp or start my morning without checking the latest specials on ASOS.

It’s an increasingly digitally mobile world.

How to get a brilliant new job in marketing this year

“Whether you’re looking for a new job or looking to make your next rock star hire, matching talent with opportunities is a time-consuming process,” reckon the folks at LinkedIn.

Late last year the professional social networking site launched a real-time job seeker application – currently in Beta. Profile Matches, aims to make it faster and easier to find jobs and candidates.

LinkedIn members will also be matched with job opportunities that they might otherwise miss, and hiring managers and recruiters will see qualified candidates immediately after posting a job.

I have to say that the feature is actually pretty good. This new feature works best when you’ve filled out the experience, summary and professional headline sections of your profile with details about your skills.

It’s been a long time coming for LinkedIn when you think about it. The site already enables users to list whether or not they are interested in job opportunities – and recruiters have long used the site as their head hunting ground.

And it’s no wonder: LinkedIn adds around 10 new members every 5 seconds, according to the company’s senior vice president of product development, Deep Nishar.

LinkedIn has around 135 million users in more than 200 countries. That’s a lot of exposure and opportunity.

Furthermore, as of September 2011, LinkedIn counts executives from all 2011 Fortune 500 companies as members; its corporate hiring solutions are used by 75 of the Fortune 100 companies.

There are 528,000,000 search results for ‘Marketing jobs UK’ when punched into Google.

Searching for a job using social media isn’t anything new. And in the field of marketing, it’s almost a given. We are a networking profession after all.

In reading through the many stories of those who managed to secure their current gig through social media, the biggest trend seemed to be that a chance tweet, Facebook post, or online connection made all the difference.

Here’s a cool one from a few years back:

Who hijacked Chri$tmas?

I’m sure many retailers are wishing that it could be Christmas every day. Shopping this season really has put a great big smile on somebody’s face and retailers are expected record crowds in the Boxing Day sales with consumers hungry for real discounts.

Imagine if it was Christmas every day. We simply wouldn’t celebrate it and marketers wouldn’t plan their year around it either.

The “season” that has become Christmas is so vast and so huge that it is starting to look more like a marketing theme then an actually celebration of a religious figure.

Take all the popular Christmas songs that are sung each December around the world. ‘Let It Snow’ and ‘White Christmas’ for example. I can’t begin to tell you how weird they are to listen to when you’re in Australia and its 40 degrees outside.

And then there are the Christmas decorations, the Christmas cards – all featuring snow.

In terms of marketing essentials, Christmas includes the lot: a jingle (or 100), a loveable character, a path to purchase and lots of cute little one liners.

And it all works. We spend more money between September and December than we do all year. We buy things like themed serviettes, dinnerware that we can only use once a year, fake trees, cards, jumpers that we look ridiculous in and jewellery that lights up. Are we buying these to pay our respects for the origins of the holiday? I suspect not…

Furthermore, what was conceived as a celebration of Christianity has taken on many forms with it even being celebrated in countries, such as Japan and South Korea, where only a small percentage of the population is Christian.

And why do some people eat ham and others eat Turkey? In Switzerland they have a fondue chinoise and in France they eat prawns and oysters. If we were all celebrating the same thing, surely we’d all be doing it the same way.

The same can be said for holidays such as Easter. Chocolate eggs, if you really think about it, don’t quite make sense.

So was it marking that hijacked Christmas? Or consumers?

They say that the true meaning of Christmas is…oh hang on, I forget. Is it shopping and alcohol?

Don’t get me wrong, I love Christmas as much as the next person. It just seems that we seem to be getting sillier and sillier when it comes to what marketers try to get away with at this time of year.

Here’s such an example: