You may have wondered why there was a bit of a pause on this blog. Especially when written by someone who constantly tells others to keep writing and posting at least once a week. Well, I was on vacation! It was the longest vacation office workers in the glorious nation of United States had seen: 18 consecutive days! (Jealous?) My time was well spent. I visited my family in Turkey and practiced word of mouth chatting with them.
In case you were wondering about Turkey. No, it’s not in the Caribbean. It’s not like the Caribbean. It is spread over Europe and Asia. It has a variety of seasons, depending on the region. Population is more than 70 million. 61 percent is under the age of 34!! It’s a peninsula, surrounded by beautiful coast lines on the Aegean, Mediterranean and the Black Sea.
And here are some notes I grabbed from the Invest in Turkey brochure on the plane:
– Turkey is the world’s 15th largest economy and the 6th largest economy compared to the 27 EU economies
– Between 2003 and 2008, Turkey’s GDP increased 143%, reaching $742 billion
– During the same time, exports increased 179%, reaching $132 billion, foreign trade increased by 186%, exports to neighboring countries rose 278%
Despite its political ups and downs and its fair share of economic crises, Turkey commands a strong position in the international business arena. Turkish people follow and respond to the media. Facebook’s largest following in Europe, as I had written here before, is from Turkey. Participating in online chats, spending hours per day playing games are not uncommon experiences for the Turkish youth. The social media and WOM space there is bubbling with very creative, targeted campaigns.
I’d say, look for more waves coming from Turkey.
I was chatting with a friend here who works for a major media conglomerate and is getting her PhD in media economics. (Yes, she can multi-task.) She is working on a paper about online advertising. Her employer, the owner of several national papers and publications, is the biggest online advertiser in Turkey. She said she was surprised to find how in the US the top advertising revenue congregated around search engines and portals such as Google, Yahoo, AOL and MSN… This made me think for a minute about how I got my news on a daily basis. To me, information is key. I track multiple sources at a time. I keep an eye on Yahoo news. I go through my blog lists on a regular basis. I read the NYT and WSJ – online and offline. The latest news is the greatest. Within all this commotion, I sometimes pay attention to online banner ads and pop-ups.
Advertisers get the biggest return from me when I search for a specific product or service. That’s when I am ready to click around and chase additional information. Hence, the beauty of search engine marketing. Paid or organic, it reaches a relevant, engaged audience. My search engine is my default newspaper and directory.
Our conversation took another interesting turn, when another friend who oversees a number of brands for an international cosmetics company’s Turkish branch said she is planning to cut back on her Web advertising in 2009. She complained that she was not getting enough ROI. Instead, she planned to focus on TV. Her budget was scaled back anyhow.
A new dish came to the table, we all got distracted with mozzeralla sticks and pizzas. So I didn’t get into finding new audiences online with a list of sites that matched her audience’s profile. I didn’t get a chance to tell her about the brands who were moving money from traditional media to online, either.
The Turkish online audience is addicted to social networks and discussion forums. Turkey is one of Facebook’s most populated bases in Europe. Similar to US Internet users, novice and seasoned users depend on major search engines to find information. Perhaps the solution for brands here is to move away from somewhat engaging banner ads and follow the audience to search engines and social networks.
After claims that a YouTube video contained degrading content about Ataturk, the founder of modern Turkish state, Turkish courts banned access to the popular video exchange site from Turkey. They didn’t want anyone to tamper with the evidence while they reviewed the case.
Don’t get me wrong, I am a follower of Ataturk’s path and I staunchly believe in protecting his name and his institutions. But I am not sure if it may be possible to contain content on an ever dynamic social media site. My guess is that many people wouldn’t even be able to find the video and the pertaining user comments that are in question.
But nowadays the focus on the case have shifted from the court’s decision to the back roads Turkish Internet users take to access YouTube. As Milliyet, a leading national paper here, reported recently the number of Turkish visitors to YouTube has reached 800,000 per day, pushing the site to the most viewed 10 Web destinations in the country. Google searches on alternative ways to access YouTube returns more than 300,000 results. In a November interview, even the country’s Prime Minister admitted to accessing YouTube through alternative sites.
The ban doesn’t seem to stop young Turks from connecting and networking.