Monthly Archives: September 2010

Social 1.0: The Bubble Has Burst.

Don’t let the title of this post fool you; by no means I am suggesting that Social Media is no longer an intrinsic part of everyday life in 2010.  What I am claiming however, is that the current ‘gold rush’ is most definitely coming to an end.  In short, we’ve moved on exponentially from the early days of Social Media and businesses are now recognising that this discipline needs to be treated as an integrated part of digital marketing strategy rather than its own, poorly organised entity.

The hedonistic heydays of 2009 – “get us a profile on every channel out there!!!” – have now subsided and ushered in a new era of caution.  Simply slapping your brand about willy-nilly on every social network imaginable is no longer acceptable practice.  After two years of Social Media marketing, we’ve finally reached the point where business leaders are begging the question ‘OK, what now? – and this is undoubtedly a good thing for Social Media, as well as digital marketers working in this discipline.

Social Media has now had enough time to generate discernible findings, reports, feedback, learnings; what works, what doesn’t.  Marketers are now able to use Social Media far more effectively for specific purposes and are planning accordingly.  A customer service tool; branding; promotions; charity; CSR; value-added; content distribution; sales: the multi-faceted possibilities that Social Media offers means that any SM marketing MUST consist of more than simply having ‘a generic Twitter page’.

So whilst this complex beast requires significant investment from digital marketing teams, this is no bad thing.  The ‘bubble’ has burst indeed – but only insofar as unaccountability goes.  As Social Media marketers, it’s our task to be more intelligent, which many have been doing already.

For brands that are approaching Social Media as part of an integrated digital marketing approach, I have no doubt that considered strategies and defined objectives will ensure a successful ROI.  For those who remain entrenched in the ‘spread it thinly and everywhere’ approach, there can only be one inevitability.  Planning, thought and strategy are now crucial to SM success.  Those not employing this are all too visible for everyone to see – and their efforts will burst along with the bubble of ‘Social 1.0’.

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Google Instant: Not Re-Invention of the Wheel, Just a Change of Direction.

As an SEO copywriter at heart, I have long maintained an avid personal and professional interest in this crucial digital discipline.  Needless to say, the arrival of Google Instant – an engine that delivers results *as you type* – has caused something of a stir in digital circles.  Will this spell a complete re-write (literally) of large digital websites?  Or will well-optimised platforms be nicely positioned regardless of the change in search method?

Here are some key pointers for digital marketers

i) A search by any other name is just as sweet…

Let’s not forget that Google Instant does the same as Google ‘normal’ (Google ‘un-instant?’) – it delivers results based on users’ search requests.  In theory, digital marketers with well-optimised websites should have nothing to fear.  The time and effort that has been invested in SEO will continue to serve to serve them well.  Google Instant is a change in search – but it’s still search.

ii) Redefine your keywords

Of course, this isn’t to say that Google Instant should be ignored completely.  Like it or not, Google is Caesar, and when in Rome…  If the masses do adopt Google Instant as their preferred search method, shorter keywords will become much more significant.  For example, if you have built your SEO strategy around long-tail search strings such as ‘cheap electrical goods with free delivery in the UK’, you may need to refocus this to ‘cheap electrical goods’.  Why?  By the time your customer has typed ‘cheap electrical goods’ – nay, even ‘cheap electrical’ – they will have a stream of search results before them already.

iii) Long-tail search is not dead

Despite the introduction of Google Instant, this does not spell the death knell for long-tail search.  If web users are looking for a specific search string, they’ll continue to type keywords until they find it.  It’s far too easy for businesses to get hung up on being found for a very generic keyword, but consumers are a lot more savvy than we give them credit for.  Don’t get me wrong; if you are a provider of ‘cheap holidays’, you have your work cut out for you – but then this is nothing new.  If you are a manufacturer of bespoke Isle of Wight Oak tree furniture, the chances are people will continue to seek you out traditionally.

In summary?  Google Instant will undoubtedly cause SEO copywriters and digital marketers some work over the next few months, but this is not necessarily a bad thing.  Good SEO copywriters know that you should regularly refresh your copy as best practice anyway, so Google Instant is not the doom-bringer than believe it to be.

This is an excellent opportunity for SEO copywriters and digital marketers to re-establish the keywords that they want to be found for, and to give their online presence a refresh.  Google has not reinvented the wheel – it’s simply given that wheel a new lick of paint and as SEO / digital marketers, it’s our job to ensure that that wheel remains on the right track.

‘Ping’ – Promising or Problematic?

Not content with revolutionising the MP3 and mobile markets, along with creating some of the most iconic and desirable consumer products of the 21st Century, Apple has now turned its Midas touch to the social media sphere.  But will the oddly named ‘Ping’ network prove to be another runaway success for Steve Jobs et al, or is this a step too far for Apple’s all-consuming tentacles?

On the face of it, Ping looks a solid bet.  Rather than attempting to create ‘AppleBook’ or ‘FaceApple’, the brand has wisely focused on targeting a specific market segment – the music industry.  Whilst this is a natural sector for Apple to tap in to given the impressive behemoth that is iTunes, it nevertheless makes savvy commercial sense to engage an audience that shares a collective common interest.

‘Ping’ offers standard ‘profile’ settings – we can all add a photo, some egotistical spiel about ourselves, connect with friends etc. – all very standard.  The hook, however, is provided by allowing users to ‘like’ songs, albums and artists on the iTunes network, as well as submit reviews and share playlists.  These nice touches will no doubt appeal to musical purists, as well as to musical narcissists racing to create a visibly ‘trendy’ musical library – which is music to the ears of the social / digital bods at Apple.

One of the things community managers fear most is a silent arena.  There’s nothing worse than driving consumers to your network or forum, only for them to be met with a digital silence.  But here’s where, in my opinion, I think Apple have been extraordinarily clever.  ‘Ping’ will generate a raft of user-generated content from passionate advocates – an intriguing feature that many more generic social networks fail to achieve.

So is this yet another step on the path to world domination for Apple?  On the face of it, one would think that the brand has struck digital gold once again.  But the Social Media sea is an oft-tempestuous place.  One needs only to mention the two words ‘Google Wave’ to prove that the biggest brands in the world can get things spectacularly wrong – a big brand name does not automatically equate to social success.

As both a digital marketer and a music aficionado, the concept of ‘Ping’ interests me on multiple levels.  There’s no doubt that the social media sphere has long presented opportunities for a successful music-based network, and, commercially, Apple has the infrastructure to accommodate this.  Conversely, I’m left wondering whether Apple is in fact using ‘social’ to serve its own commercial interests rather than providing consumers with a genuinely engaging, dynamic and broad social platform.

There are a lot of questions that only time will answer, but one thing’s for certain – branding ‘Ping’ with the Apple logo does not necessarily mean that the venture will be a success.  Watch this space…

(You can find me, and my musical tastes, on Ping by searching for Callum Saunders.)