Home Networking Means We’ll Have More Than TV and Online Data Per Zipcode

Emerging Trend:  With the advent of Internet-connected home networking systems and devices, marketers will need to have a holistic look at home-related data – ranging from the living room, into the kitchen and garage.

Implication: We will have the ability to map out consumer behaviors and needs at a very granular level and serve ads in a highly tailored and effective manner.

Action: Follow Google, Apple and Microsoft partnerships with Samsung, Phillips Lighting, Dell, Qualcomm, Intel, as well as auto makers. These companies are working to activate household devices and meters with Internet-connected chips.

Info-Currents February Issue Now Online: How to Rise Above Email and Social Media Clutter

Emerging trend:  Google seeps into the oldest mobile technology: cars.

Implication: New models from Kia and Hyundai featuring Google maps and places gives the search giant additional advertising space and eliminates competition for eyeballs and clicks.

Action: Note additional revenue streams: Small business owners (e.g., restaurants, specialty shops) can increase foot traffic by making sure they increase their web presence and get listed in Google services.


Emerging trend: E-mail consolidation services such as unroll.me helps consumers gain control of their inboxes and reduces spam.

Implication: E-mail marketing has to be an outcome, rather than the starting point of customer-brand relations. When consumers sift through their list of promotional emails consolidated by services like unroll.me, they will only allow Very Important Emails (VIE) to filter into their inboxes. Brand love will need to weigh more than discount offers.

Action: Re-evaluate the ROI from vast email lists. Test run an email campaign among fans and return customers, as well as a random sample of non-fans. Compare open-rates and follow-up actions from both groups. Consider focusing email invitations only on fans.


Emerging trend: To break through social media clutter and gain visibility, thought leaders and enterprises alike will rely on automated content management systems such as Meddle.

Implication: Building social media presence takes significant effort and continuous updates. Smart content management systems can shrink time to fame and broaden industry experts’ and academics’ audiences.

Action: Instead of investing in static online presence (e.g., web sites), build a social base and propel your news to audiences searching for niche content.


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What do Instagram, Slideshare and Meebo Have in Common?

These are the latest/pending acquisitions by social media giants Facebook, LinkedIn and the omnipresent Google. What does it all mean? Even the largest distribution channels need sticky content. Yes, I used that web 1.0 word ‘sticky’. I could have said ‘engagement is the new king.’ Bottomline, advertisers need eyeballs to stay with content for a long period of time so they can sell more and more. Whether you’re looking at a friend’s photos, a colleagues’ slides or getting social ads served to you, it’s the same basic principle of being exposed to a message. 

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What Google’s New Privacy Policy Really Means

How many mainstream Google users fully know or understand how the search engine collects and pieces information together? Probably not many. To “simplify things”, Google reduced its 60 privacy policies down to one. Google informed me through my work and personal emails. Catch is – I didn’t realize they had my information. Very spooky! But come to think of it, I had probably gladly opted into a Google-owned service at some point. Or used a service (e.g., YouTube), that got purchased by Google. That’s Google’s game: collecting disparate pieces of personal data and stitching it together. 

Here’s what Google’s new policy says and what it really means:

“…we want to ensure you can move across Gmail, Calendar, Search, YouTube, or whatever your life calls with ease”

i.e: We trace your footsteps from email, calendar, search to video. We then show you the ads based on themes you talk about in your personal space.

“…we suggest search queries or tailor search results, based on the interests you expressed in Google+, Gmail and YouTube.”

i.e.: We connect what you like on google+, with what you frequently email about and what you watch on YouTube. We know you. 

“…By remembering the contact information of the people you want to share with, we make it easy for you to shre in any Google product or service with minimal clicks…”

i.e.: We know your friends too



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Google+ Hints At Social Commerce

You don’t have to worry about your Mom joining Google+ and using it with the same enthusiasm as she does Facebook. She will. Because Google+’s next version will combine social clues from peer-to-peer interactions with search recommendations and possibly reviews. Users will be able to go seamlessly from conversation to search and purchase.

One of the most important things to note about Google+ right now is the way Google is soliciting feedback about the various features from early adopters. We are witnessing a massive focus group and a public usability test. In time, we may see some features dropped, some new ones evolve and others tweaked. Mobile extensions are a given. Among these iterations, Google is likely to start pushing targeted ads and offer product recommendations. Consumer reviews will be an organic part of the process as people post about what they have seen, what they have done, search and purchase will be a click away. 

Thanks to the plus platform, Google added a whole new data stream to its wealth of information on search behavior. Soon, it will know not only what we are curious about, but also how we get to those questions. It will have all the elements of a powerful, socially driven, product/service recommendation engine. 


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Socialgraph Helps Search Engine Listings

When showing the value of an online community you are building, do not forget about checking the search box. Typical questions about expected outcomes from a community may still center around reach metrics. How many people am I reaching? How many eyeballs am I catching with my messages? The comprehensive answer includes reach (unique visitors, community members, etc.), engagement (i.e., conversations among fans and your brand) and search rankings. And your search listings are related to reach and engagement. 

The basic principle of affecting organic search results is strong and relevant content that gets repeated, cited and linked in online conversations. When you build a community page or a fan page, steer your editorial calendar to include bits of newsworthy information that can easily grab and pass along to their networks. When sharing news about a discount, expert tips or a new product launch, your audience expands your digital footprint, brings you more visitors/fans and generate links. The sum of these activities have a positive impact on Google search rankings and your content rises higher and higher as your community expands and chatter grows through tweets, discussions and blog posts. 

In fact, Web analyst Brandt Dainow’s list of rules for beating Google at SEO includes the following audience behaviors, which help search rankings:

  • Fans who like/follow you
  • Impressions from social graph fans (i.e., they talk about your brand in social media, including your message points, brand name)
  • Impressions from social graph fans with links (i.e., fans are citing your community page and referring traffic)
  • Secondary fan connections (i.e., friends who tell friends who then become your fans and/or referrers)
  • Other citations (i.e., links, references from people who are not your fans/followers)
  • Number of visits, click-throughs

Online conversations increase the value of your community. A bustling online hub means higher visibility and accessibility. 


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What Will Happen By 2015?

We know what will happen in 2011. Marketing plans are ready. Teams are staffing up for research, ideation, and launches. There will be news of acquisitions, hostile takeovers, and inventions. We will need to be nimble enough to respond to these ad-hoc changes. Yet we truly need to plan for the future, not just for today and tomorrow. We need to start thinking about how content, distribution technologies and audience behavior will change by 2015. The following are predictions on the landscape shifts that will become increasingly defined within the next five years.


1- Short entertainment will be standard on phones: Audiences prefer short excerpts to long exposes. Most people do not like to read. Many of us need to or would like to stay in the know. With the advent of tablets and mobile broadband, we will read 300-500 word stories on our smart phones. Since online video will be near ubiquitous, content providers will produce more infotainment clips and rely on visual communications to tell stories in creative, succinct ways. 

2- We will arrange the features on your favorite Web sites: We will see click and drag web sites. The content management systems will move to the front end from backend. Brands and news portals will have a better understanding of their users’ preferences and have the chance to improve on their services.


3- CSR audiences will be more demanding: Generation G (giving) will scrutinize philanthropy and CSR efforts more closely.  Donating two to 10 percent of proceeds to a cause will not be enough. They will expect more creative approaches from brands that produce tangible results and offer meaningful engagement. 

4- Information filters and organizers will regain popularity: People will use filters to organize their ever-growing list of contacts and prioritize among them. Instead of switching to 50-people networks, such as Path.com, online audiences will defer to new group and folder features on their Facebook pages.


5- Facebook will turn people info into business (and it won’t be just advertising): Facebook will fight with Amazon and smaller players like Yelp to be a word of mouth search engine. The vast amount of personal information it collects will continue to help marketers map out consumer preferences based on social connections and profile details. Privacy battles and issues will continue. Users will search for experience-based recommendations and listings within their extended networks. 

6- Google will become a content distributor: Google will expand its e-stores to include music, movies and clips, creating a vast indie market online. Audience ratings on these pieces of content will be added to Google algorithms.

7- Word of mouth marketing will become more precise: Marketers will successfully target beyond the inner/immediate circle of influencers. Our understanding of second and third cycles of word of mouth will improve. There will be more sophisticated program offerings to mobilize crowds and offer innovative products/services to a wider range of influencers.


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Search Words + Online Buzz = Patient Insights

I was just thinking through the online trail of a patient, looking for disease information. He might be in his mid 50s. He’s probably content with the browser his computer pops open for him. He plugs in some key words and off he goes to a list of information sources. NIH.org, Mayoclinic.com, webMD are his first stops, because they come up above branded sites supported by pharma companies.

He peeks into some forums as he digs deeper, but does he trust the information from other caregivers and patients? Spam messages about Canadian drugs and links to cheaper pills make him want to click out of there as fast as he can. He goes back to emailing his friends for a referral, turning to people in his immediate circle. 

The sheer volume of disease-related posts in forums makes us think that majority of healthcare conversations take place in these areas. I feel like we also need to look at behavioral data on how a journey that typically begins with search leads to engagement, if at all. Do the key words patients/caregivers use match up to what’s being discussed online? Do they match up to what brands provide on their sites? Is there a way to be as authoritative as the Mayo Clinic site on a given topic as a healthcare brand? 

Reviewing most commonly used search terms and online buzz about a given health topic can provide significant color to our insights. Online posts may reflect the opinions of those who dare to post public questions about their health. But search is (relatively) anonymous and can show what people are truly interested in finding. 

My two favorite tools to understand how Internet users search for content are: Google Adwords Keyword Tool and Trellian Keyword Discovery

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