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Consumers vs. Marketers & Native Mobile Advertising

Not shockingly, the average person looks at their phone 200 times a day. But only 10% of that time is spent browsing the web; The rest of the time is spent using native apps. Unlike like traditional cookie-based tracking typical in PPC advertising, the insights gathered on users via native apps has virtually no bounds. On an aggregate level, marketers can collect data on age, gender and behavior such as where you ordered dinner or where you went to happy hour etc. All this data, but what are they doing with it? The more marketers know about their users, the more they can tailor advertisements and that’s exactly what they want. Creep factor aside, some would say this works in the user’s interest because marketers are more likely to present ads you’re actually interested in seeing. However, most users only see ads as an annoyance they instinctively “skip” or ignore. And with ad blocking software becoming more ubiquitous in web browsers (80% of Americans will be using some kind of ad blocker by 2017), that makes tracking in native apps the most logical path. Not to mention, some estimate that up to 1/3 of PPC traffic is fraudulent (that translates to $7.2B in 2016). That doesn’t make it easy to place the right ad in front of the right person at the right time. Brands and marketers still need to be smart and careful about how they position themselves in a market where consumers are becoming increasingly concerned with privacy and jaded with the typical banner ad or “pre-roll” video.

I attended a meet-up during Internet week hosted by Jun Group, presented by their CEO Mitchell Reichgut titled “Don’t Call it a Phone – How to Advertise on Smartphones and Tablets in the Age of Applications.” Here are key insights on how to stay ahead of the herd and adjust your digital marketing strategy to meet this ever changing market:

  • No interruptions: That means absolutely no auto-play ads (that you can’t skip) and no pop-ups – ever.
  • Consider context: How and where users see your content is just as important as the content itself. Opt for custom placement (visible, relevant but not in the way) and tailor content specifically to the website or app’s audience. Yes, this will require development of more versions of ads but it’s worth it in the long run.
  • Know where your ads are: Many advertisers buy placement but don’t really know exactly what websites or apps will display them and what placement they’ll receive.
  • Look at media differently: it doesn’t always have to be banner ads or pre-roll videos. Many marketers have had success with value exchange programs within games. For example, a user might be asked to watch a 30 second video (between levels) in exchange for bonus points or a gameplay advantage. However, be careful that the games demographics align with your intended audience, which can be tricky to figure out.

Above all, measurement is the most important component of a successful ad campaign. Some of the above tactics may actually result in seemingly less impressive metrics but If you’re still measuring the success of your campaigns on impressions and clicks alone, don’t forget there’s a good chance much of that data is fraudulent.

How to Rank Better in Google & Bing

flightpath does sxsw - analytics team

I’ve been to presentations in the past featuring Danny Sullivan (Search Engine Land), Matt Cutts (Google) and Duane Forrester (Bing). Collectively, these three will make for an entertaining and informative session, and their open Q&A on How To Rank Better on Google and Bing at SXSW was no exception. Nothing groundbreaking was covered, but still fun and interesting nonetheless, and did include some important reminders.  Continue reading “How to Rank Better in Google & Bing”

Facebook Ads CPC vs CPM vs Promoted Stories – What’s a Social Media Marketer to do?

It was common knowledge among social media folks that CPC ads were a much better value for marketers. You expected to pay a cost of .35 to nearly a dollar a click depending on your targeted audience (like Manhattan moms who are very pricey to target). An average Facebook ad CTR of .05% seemed to be the industry benchmark for judging the success of an ad. But, that has changed.

CPC, CPM, Promoted Stories, Promoted Posts – there are a lot of options facing social media marketers interested in advertising on Facebook. It used to be that there were only two choices for advertising on Facebook CPC (cost per click) or CPM (cost per impressions).

It was common knowledge among social media folks that CPC ads were a much better value for marketers. You expected to pay a cost of .35 to nearly a dollar a click depending on your targeted audience (like Manhattan moms who are very pricey to target). An average Facebook ad CTR of .05% seemed to be the industry benchmark for judging the success of an ad.

For years, if you chose CPM your ad would be relegated to a lowly position on the bottom right hand of the user’s newsfeed and gain very few clicks. CPC ads outperformed CPM ads in all tests that we ran here at the agency as well.

But, that has changed.

While Facebook has talked a lot about the value of their new Promoted Stories ads and Promoted Posts, they also quietly chose a new favorite child in the CPC vs CPM debate. We noticed this at Flightpath when CPC ads that have been performing for years suddenly stopped being even displayed and our testing of CPM ads started showing amazing results.

We switched clients over to CPM ads and saw our average Facebook ads CTR jump from an average range of .05% to .20% jump to a range of  .50% – .80%. Then we added in Sponsored Stories, to run simultaneously with the CPM ads, and the average CTR jumped even higher to a range of .80% to 1.2%.

At the same time, we are seeing the average CPC fall from that .35 – $1 range down to a bargain basement .06 – .15 CPC. So, for the same Facebook ad spend our clients are getting about 6 times the likes they were getting earlier this year. This is really helping to rapidly grow page likes without having to dramatically up Facebook ad spend.

Why are ads suddenly cheaper and performing better?

So, this is why we think this dramatic uptick in Facebook ad performance is happening: remember months ago when advertisers like GM pulled their Facebook ad spend because they didn’t feel they were getting much of a return and remember when Facebook’s stock came out of the gate to dismal results?

Facebook had to devise a plan to get advertisers excited about spending on the platform so investors would be consider buying Facebook stock. Lowering the cost of ads and rolling out Promoted Stories (which not all Facebook users like, but they seem to click on them anyway) is a great way to get advertisers excited and spending.

If you are still running Facebook CPC ads for your clients, set up a separate CPM campaign with Promoted Stories pronto for testing. The results will blow you away.

5 Reasons to Try YouTube Ads & Setup Tips

YouTube Ads Tutorial

In online advertising, Google search, Facebook and Twitter get most of the press, but if you’re a brand with quality videos that you don’t think are getting the views they deserve, YouTube ads are a viable option.

While everyone who posts a video to YouTube holds out hope that their video will go viral, the truth is, the odds are slim of that ever happening. (Unless you specialize in Cute Cat Videos. Then, you’re basically guaranteed 18 bazillion views. That’s a scientific fact.)

The same is true for brands with video content (in a post earlier this summer, we documented the failed Men in Black III YouTube channel). Sometimes, you need to get out there and push. In online advertising, Google search, Facebook and Twitter get most of the press, but if you’re a brand with quality videos that you don’t think are getting the views they deserve, YouTube ads are a viable option. Here are five reasons why, along with some tips on how to optimize your ads.

Reason #1: Setup Is Easy
YouTube is owned by Google, and setting up a YouTube ad campaign is very similar to setting up an AdWords campaign. In fact, YouTube ads have been incorporated into AdWords, and that’s where you’ll create your campaign. The first thing you want to do, if possible, is link your YouTube account with your AdWords account. This gives you more robust analytics for your YouTube ads right in your AdWords dashboard. You can run ads without linking the accounts, but you’d be missing out on lots of data, and since you run the ads through AdWords, you might as well link them. Here’s how.

Click on the “New campaign” box in the Campaign section of AdWords, as seen below, and then select “Online Video”:

You’ll be taken to the “Create new video campaign” screen, but don’t fill it out yet. First, on the left hand “Shared library” menu, click on “Linked YouTube Accounts”:

Next, click on the blue “Link YouTube account” box in the window that pops up.

Even if your YouTube account has a different login and password from your AdWords account, they can be linked. Once this is done and the accounts are connected, you’re ready to set up a campaign.

Go back to the main setup for a Video Campaign:

Here you can name your campaign (we suggest going with something more descriptive than “Campaign #1,” because if you run more than one campaign over time, it’ll get confusing), set your daily budget and choose locations. You’ll also get to select a video from your just-linked YouTube account to use in your ads. Next, you can set your max CPV (cost per view), groups you want to target (say you have a comedy short you want to promote, you can target “Humor” and then the “Spoofs and Satire” categories in YouTube), and include any keywords you want your ad to show for.

And then you’re ready to make an actual ad. In the “Ads” tab on your dashboard, click on the “New Video Ad” box. You’ll first have to choose a video you want to advertise:

Once that’s done, it’s time to write your ad. This is done exactly as you would with an AdWords ad. Write a Headline, two Description lines, a Display URL and a Destination URL (you can have the ad take the viewer to the video’s YouTube page or to your YouTube channel). You’ll get to pick a still from your video to act as the ad’s image, and can preview it in real-time.

Reason #2: They’re Not Crazy Expensive
In the world of pay-per-click advertising, a campaign can get expensive as keywords become more competitive. It can obviously be worth it, and sometimes it’s a necessity – but average cost-per-clicks (or CPVs, in this case) are relatively low with YouTube ads, meaning you can drive visits to your videos for less money on a per-click basis. And if you have quality video content that can spread the word about your brand or services, YouTube ads can be one of the more cost-effective ways to spread your message.

Reason #3: Free Link To Your Website
You know those pop-up ads that overlay a video you’re watching? They’re actually free to the owner of the video and video advertiser. The call-to-action overlay, as Google calls it, takes you to an external site, and features a headline and short copy. So while someone is watching your video, you can get an ad pointing to your website at no charge. It’s a real, quantifiable bonus to running a YouTube ad campaign. (Note: Call-to-action overlays are only available if you’ve linked your YouTube and AdWords accounts.)

After you’ve created your ad, click on “Videos” in your dashboard:

You’ll see all your videos related to that campaign. In the first column, called “Video,” you’ll see this underneath the link and description of the video:

Click on the plus sign, and you can create (and later edit or delete) your free call-to-action overlay, which will appear when your video is played. You write it the same way you would an AdWords or YouTube ad, with a Headline, Description, Display URL and Destination URL:

Click-through-rates for these aren’t huge. But to get a free ad and link to your site in such a visible place is a real added value.

Reason #4: Have It Your Way
YouTube offers four different Ad Formats: In-search (your ad appears above YouTube search results), In-slate (users have the option of choosing your ad and watching some of your video, amongst others, before viewing their video), In-display (your ad appears as a suggestion to the right of a YouTube video) and In-stream (your ad shows as a preview before another video). When choosing a format, you’ll get to preview what each will look like in action:

You can choose one or all of the options, and experiment as you wish. It’s a great way to cast as wide or small a net as you want with your ads, and see which format works best for your content and target audience.

Reason #5: They Work
While there are no guarantees of success in online anything, there are enough options within YouTube’s advertising mechanism that you can really make them work for you and drive views of your videos. The real question is, is it worth it to your business to pay for video views? The answer will be different for everyone. But if you do have video content that you want people to see, that will make a difference for your business, then YouTube ads are a great tool to make it happen.

Pinterest Analytics Tools Comparison – PinReach vs Pinerly

We took a look at 2 of the most popular Pinterest analytics tools available, Pinerly and PinReach and put them head to head to find out which offered the best Pinterest account analytics tools for brands.

We took a look at 2 of the most popular Pinterest analytics tools available, Pinerly and PinReach and put them head to head to find out which offered the best Pinterest account analytics tools for brands. So you can know  if your content is reaching an audience and also gather the stats you need to report back about your Pinterest campaign to your client.

Pinerly

Pinerly is a complete Pinterest account management platform. In our opinion, this is the best Pinterest analytics tool for marketers. It offers lots of great stats (or Pinalytics) on your Pinterest account including number of repins and likes on individual pins.

On the downside, in order for pins to be tracked by Pinerly each pin must each be created through Pinerly. This means that pins show the URL of origin as Pinerly.com,  instead of your brand’s URL. The good news is that any clicks of your pins are still directed to the URL of your choice.

Perhaps once Pinerly is out of beta, there will be a white label option as part of a premium package for brands (not anything we saw on Pinerly just guessing they are going to have a monetization strategy unlike Pinterest). It would also be great if brands could promote pins by paying to be featured in Pinerly’s suggested pins. However, there are currently no opportunities for brands to pay to promote content to other Pinerly users.

What we like:

  • Scheduling coming soon- a huge bonus for marketers since Pinterest activity peeks during off hours.
  • Analytics good enough to report back to a client with
  • Looking for feedback from users

What we don’t like:

  • Pinerly.com shown as pin URL
  • No brand promotion opportunities
  • No comment tracker
  • Still in beta- though you can request an invite here

PinReach

Billed as a tool for understanding and measuring the impact of your Pinterest account, PinReach is a lot like Klout for Pinterest.  Users are assigned PinReach scores  based upon the amount of engagement (repins, likes and comments) their Pinterest content receives.

Scores range from 0-90+. According to PinReach, most accounts fall into the 30-39 score range, and there are no PinReach users who have scored above an 89 (Etsy must not have checked their score yet). Certain types of interactions have more influence on a  PinReach score. While you get points for filling your boards with pins, you get more when others repin, like or comment on your content.

One stat that PinReach provides that Pinerly does not is the amount of comments received. While the metrics available through PinReach are mostly identical to those available through Pinerly, that’s ok because PinReach has a different goal- it was designed to be less of a dashboard and more of a high level look at the influencers and top images on Pinterest.

What we like:

  • PinReach is very straight forward and user friendly.
  • Looking at trending pins can be great inspiration for creating your own.
  • Much like a Klout score, a PinReach score is a fun way to gamify Pinterest. If you are aiming to brag at BlogHer, having a high PinReach score is just the ticket.

What we don’t like:

  • No brand promotion opportunities
  • From a social media marketer’s point of view, the PinReach score, is not necessary. (You know what we mean if you have ever watched a client’s eyes glaze over while explaining a Klout score).
  • Not the in-depth analytics you need for reporting purposes.

What Pinterest analytics tools are you using? Leave a comment and let us know.

4 Google Analytics Updates You Should Know

As most of us in this industry know, Google is always changing and tinkering with its products, from Gmail to Google+, and, often times, the company doesn’t even bother to tell us when changes have been made. (The nerve of some mega-powerful corporations!)

As a digital marketing manager, a large chunk of my time is centered on navigating and understanding Google Analytics, discovering insights and unearthing important data. Lately, several major changes have popped up in Analytics, which may impact the way we use it, as well as the information within. Here are four changes you should know about.

To read the rest of this post, please head over to iMedia Connection.

The Redesign of Google from the Mouths of Those Who Led it

Prior to the summer of 2011, no one would have accused Google web products of having the most pleasing visual interface. We attended a deeply insightful SXSW session on their historic redesign. This is what we learned.

Prior to the summer of 2011, no one would have accused Google web products of having the cleanest or most pleasing visual interface. Several of us from Flightpath listened to a deeply insightful SXSW session about the historic summer 2011 redesign that affected nearly all of Google’s web products. We heard insight directly from the design leads from Search, Mail, Maps, and so on.

Here are the insights and takeaways that we found the most fascinating:

  • For the very first time anywhere, Google presented comps to the public of an ill-fated, unknown major redesign from 2007
  • The 2011 redesign effort was jumpstarted by a simple IM early that year from Larry Page to the Creative Labs group in New York City, asking them to take stab at redesigning all of Google
  • That request netted a fast design effort, where the designers in New York were left on their own to develop a “concept car” of a unified visual language for all of Google’s web products
  • Interestingly enough, the ultimate finished redesign looked very similar to this very first “concept car”
  • In contrast to the 2007 redesign effort, where the deliverable was a long presentation with exposition and process explanation, the initial first creative in 2011 consisted solely of 10-12 “before and after comps” on 11×17 color printouts. The lesson here is not that every design presentation can solely be done through large printouts, but that you have to recognize and think through how best to present to a given stakeholder.  In this case, large printouts laid out on a table worked better when presenting to the top Google troika of Eric Schmitt, Larry Page and Sergey Brin
  • In April 2011, Larry Page gave the go-ahead for the redesign with a ridiculous goal of end-of-summer launch. So audacious was the goal that the project was likened internally to the “moonshot” in the sixties, and the project was given the code name “Kennedy”
  • The project was given #1 priority and trumped all new feature development across all affected products
  • Dropping support for older browsers was critical in successfully launching the redesign on time
  • While many design standards such as use of a consistent grid system were codified, elements like fonts have yet to be standardized for various reasons (latency of web fonts, unsupported foreign character sets, etc.)
  • An HTML/CSS Prototype was critical to collaborate with development. In fact, code would be culled from these prototypes to create an online, living style guide through which internal development teams could see interfaces and steal/grab CSS code. The individual product teams would in turn contribute additional elements back to this style guide
  • Through the help of this style guide, teams were able to give even internal tools the redesign treatment as well
  • It should come to no surprise to anyone that Google likes data.  But interestingly, they started much of the testing of the redesign with more qualitative tests. 80 trusted internal Google participants would be surveyed after seeing each comp for 10 seconds
  • Of course there was also plenty of quantitative research, much based around using, not shockingly, search data. The well-documented “test for the right blue link color” typified this
  • The redesigned Gmail was tested by way of “dog-fooding”: A forced launch for all company employees. The backlash was considerable, especially to the increased line spacing implemented, and was coined “Gmailageddon.”  The Google design team chose to be patient and acknowledge that much of initial resistance to the new design was due “change aversion”.  Over time, users eventually found more favor with the new design, though some design concessions were made regarding line spacing by way of introducing a line-spacing setting option
  • Given that the new design language made its mass introduction with the Google+ launch in June 2011, many mistakenly attribute the redesign as originating from the Google+ product. In fact, by April 2011, Google+ was nearly complete with an entirely different visual design and the Google+ team had to scramble to successfully integrate the new redesign language in time for their launch

It was not too long ago when the feeling about Google web products was that they work great, but look like sh!t. Both as a Google user (and who isn’t one?) and a designer, I am both appreciative and impressed by how the Google design team has elevated design to the forefront of Google web products.

How Google+ is Being Integrated With AdWords & Other Google Products

Google+ logo

With Google+, Google’s fledgling social network, one thing is clear: The search giant is determined to make it a success, incorporating Google+ into many of its other products and services that impact brands.

With Google+, Google’s fledgling social network, one thing is clear: The search giant is determined to make it a success, incorporating Google+ into many of its other products and services that impact brands. Whether this is a tactic to force Google+ adoption or a way to improve its other products is debatable, but ultimately, Google+ is becoming a part of several core Google services, and agencies must take note.

Google AdWords

When starting a campaign in AdWords, advertisers now have Google+ integration as an option.Google+ AdWords integrationIf you opt in to associating your ads with your Google+ page, any +1 click attributed to the ad will also count towards your Google+ brand page. As Google pushes Google+ to play more of a role in search, this could be a beneficial feature on both an SEM and SEO level. In the past, paid search and organic search were neatly separated; now, the line is blurring.

Google Organic Search

Google+ pages are slowly being included in organic search results in a special sidebar. Below is a screenshot of a Search Engine Results Page (SERP) I received after searching for “music.”

Google+ SEOThis is valuable space dedicated solely to Google+ pages – having your page show up in these results could be a huge driver of traffic. Moreover, note the link at the bottom, which tells you how to get your page to appear there. It takes you here:

How to make your Google+ profile show in searchAgain, just as Google is enticing AdWords advertisers to use Google+, they’re doing so with brands here, banking that the extra visibility in search results will encourage adoption and usage. If it sticks, it could be a huge change to how we approach search.

Google Latitude

I know what you’re thinking: What the hell is Google Latitude? (That was the question I most received after inviting friends to join the service.) For those who don’t know – of which I suspect there are many – Latitude is Google’s Foursquare-esque app: go somewhere, check in. Recently, it was linked exclusively to Google+. This popped up on my Google+ profile, after a check-in at a local restaurant:Google Latitude info in Google+For Android users, a recent update to Google Latitude has added leaderboards, awarding users points for check-ins, with promised Google+ integration in the near future. What implications might this new game element on Latitude have on search, or the Google+ pages of places users are checking into?

Integration doesn’t end here, of course. We’ve seen Google+ functionality pop-up in Gmail, Google Maps and more. The lesson: while most of the industry has watched Google+ from a distance, excited by the high early adoption numbers but dismayed by the lack of usage, it may turn out to be an essential marketing tool. As Google continues to integrate Google+ across its product line – especially organic and paid search – it would be unwise to ignore the social network.

Google Plus: Potential Impact on SEO, Social Media Marketing, and More

As a marketer who works on behalf of a variety of brands, I am both scared and very intrigued by the introduction of Google Plus.

GOOGLE PLUS & SEARCH

The potential that Google Plus has, if it truly uses the power already built by Google, is tremendous, and brands may not have the luxury to wait around and decide to get involved. And not just because of its potential as a social media tool that can unseat Facebook, but because of its potential to impact search engine rankings in unexpected ways.

Imagine for a moment that you work for Brand X who has a solid presence on Facebook, a decent following on Twitter, but their strongest asset has been their optimization strategy for search engines. This strategy has resulted in Brand X being the top brand for heavy utilized keywords and has helped increase the traffic ten times over in the past year. Brand X feels like they have a good thing going, and when you ask to get involved in Google Plus, they tell you not to bother. You then notice your rankings start to drop and you are being pushed out of the top pages by your competitors. Upon further research, you discover that Company Y decided to get involved in Plus and Google announces that activity in the social network is now factored into their search engine results algorithm. Company Y jumps ahead because they decided to use Plus and now you have to try to get Brand X involved just to stay competitive.

This is a very scary scenario but one that I could see playing out if Google wanted it to. Brands would almost be forced to get involved or risk losing everything their SEO initiatives achieved. Right now, however, there is no way for brands to get involved as it is only open to individual users, but according to Google, brand pages will be available by the end of the year and they are already starting to accept applications for a special beta test.

GOOGLE PLUS & SOCIAL MARKETING

No one knows exactly what Google Plus brand pages will look like or the functionality that they will have. When the product finally rolls out, it could be a big shock and something we have never seen before, or it could be something very similar to the way a Facebook page looks now.

One of the very intriguing things from a marketing perspective would be the targeting capabilities of messaging using the fundamental building block of Plus called Circles. Google said they found one of the major problems with the social landscape today is that one thing is shared with everyone instead of being able to pick and choose. “Not all relationships are created equal,” says the Official Google Blog. “So in life we share one thing with college buddies, another with parents, and almost nothing with our boss. The problem is that today’s online services turn friendship into fast food—wrapping everyone in “friend” paper—and sharing really suffers.” Circles solves this problem by bringing the activity of only sharing certain information with certain people to software.

As a marketer, being able to pick and choose certain subsets of consumers to target a specific message is something that is lacking in the current options, but is a feature with a lot of potential. While Facebook does allow you to target through their ad platform, you cannot target updates or status messages to a specific group. Imagine if you could send coupon and discount messages for kids clothing only to your consumers who you knew had kids. This would avoid a lot of irrelevant messages going to your community and would allow a complete personalization of content.

Still, Facebook has a mechanism available to businesses to help them increase awareness and make their presence known through the use of Facebook ads. Although Google Plus has a lot of potential in this area by connecting with their Ad Words program, the two are currently separate.

Over the next several months, as Google fine tunes the program through feedback and starts to drop hints about the business pages, a clearer picture will certainly emerge on the power that Plus has. If you are a brand though, be ready, because this might be one network you can’t afford to be left behind on.

If you were lucky enough to receive an invitation to Google Plus and have had a chance to try it out and experiment with it, we would love to know your thoughts in the comment field!

Is the Salesforce Acquisition of Radian6 Significant?

The acquisition of radian6 by Salesforce represents a possible significant shift in both the social media monitoring and customer relationship management industries. Time will tell how this merger will actually play out but the potential is there to deepen the connection and help foster a direct correlation between activity in social media and business ROI.

According to Mashable and the official release itself, the enterprise leading customer relationship management company Salesforce has agreed to acquire a leading social media monitoring platform in radian6. The deal is all but complete and should be finalized by July according to the article. The big question now is what does it mean for an industry who is still relatively young and with new players producing new platforms every day.

Salesforce sees it as a large move for them, which is pretty obvious by the amount of money they put up in their bid, a total of $326 million in stocks and cash was the reported agreement. “With Radian6, salesforce.com is gaining the technology and market leader in social media monitoring,” said Marc Benioff, chairman and CEO, salesforce.com in the official release announcing the acquisition. “We see this as a huge opportunity. Not only will this acquisition accelerate our growth, it will extend the value of all of our offerings.”

So with this move does Salesforce automatically become the industry leader now and in which industry are we referring to?

In the CRM industry, they have been one of if not the leader for some time now. The dashboard is great for sales forces and keeping track of prospects and current client projects and has served as an excellent lead generation tool. However, it is my personal opinion that the monitoring portion has been less than impressive up to this point.

Radian6 on the other hand, is clearly one of the leaders in this space with over half of the fortune 500 companies as their clients. Their unique technology that allows them to monitor conversations across the span of the social space including Facebook, Twitter, blogs and more allows companies to not only see what is happening in real-time but to also receive analysis and insights and engage directly from within the platform.

So how will these technologies converge? Will this be a magical pill connecting our social activities directly with our sale activities to really finally be able to see the true ROI of our efforts? The answer is that time will be the determining factor because it remains to be seen exactly how Salesforce will utilize this powerful new technology. The release does provide some hints as it is mentioned that the current internal social network known as “Chatter” will now be filled with what is happening in the social web in real time. This could be more cumbersome than helpful however as the volume of conversation could be overwhelming for companies to deal with.

The bottom line is that the possibility is there to make this a seamless integration and help solve the disconnect problem that plagues some brands with their social media efforts. On the other hand the technology could become cumbersome for people like me to use and take away from the true joy of using these mediums to interact.

One thing is certain. The next couple of months will be very interesting and could determine the future of both these industries and how this all will play out. As for agencies and brands, keep engaging your customers through social media with whatever platforms you are using, but keep an eye on this merger as it could potentially alter the landscape permanently.

A Klout Score Alone is Not a Sign of Influence

Two panels during the South by Southwest Conference (SXSW) that I attended were focused on the topic of influence. “The Ultimate Influencer Throwdown” and “Influencers are taking over the world.” Both were full of great points and one theme that came up over and over again was relevance.

Now when I say relevance, I am referring to topical relevance. One of the panelist I actually think said it best when she said, “Understanding the realm of influence is just as important as the influence itself.” In other words, it is great that you can get a big celebrity to mention or tweet about your brand but if the brand does not have influence over your end customer what does it matter.

This is especially true because when it comes to online communities, for the most part they are built up around niche topics. So one individual could have an incredible amount of power when it comes to that specific topic but when it comes to something else they are virtually invisible.

To date, this has been of the biggest complaints about the use of a Klout score. A Klout score for those who may not be familiar with the term is a score from 0-100 that supposedly measures your Twitter influence. It looks at a variety of factors but the bottom-line measurement is how likely your content that you put out will be acted on. This could be through a re-tweet or a mention or a copy and paste of a particular link that you posted. The Klout looks at all of these.

Joe Fernandez, The CEO of Klout, who was on the “Influencers are taking over the world,” panel spoke on the subject of topical relevance and promised that Klout would be rolling out a number of new features that makes the Klout score more relevant. “Big Celebrities tweeting about products is nice,” Fernandez said, “but that’s not what gets me excited about our product. What gets me excited is the fact that the top influencer on Twitter for a major brand like BMW could be a 15 year old boy who loves the cars and is always writing on them. That is the true power of Klout.”

For now though what can you do when trying to find influencers? Follow some of these tips.

  • Look at who is already mentioning your brand or industry
  • Find out who they are connected to and have influence over
  • Use the Klout score and other quantitative factors to identify influencers
  • Score this group of influencers based on relevance and topics

So what is the large takeaway is that there is no one-size fits all solution. Each agency or brand needs to develop their own internal ranking system based on what is most important to them. After all, If Charlie Sheen tweets about your brand you may get the mentions and impressions but does that mean it will get you any conversions. I think in this case the answer would be no and that you would be #notwinning.

Keep reading the Flightpath Blog for Part 2 of our photo report, as well as more reactions and insights from our team. For a look back at what we found interesting search #AustinSix on Twitter.

Conversion Rate Optimization: Performance Comes Down to Testing!

As a gear-head and big fan of motorsports, I’m psyched about the upcoming Formula 1 season. For those that don’t know, F1 is the pinnacle of auto racing, involving crazy amounts of money, resources and technology that is unmatched by any other form of racing. The level of engineering employed in creating these one-of-a-kind cars is amazing, with each team developing a brand new car every year. Top teams such as Ferrari, Mclaren, Red Bull and Mercedes spend hundreds of millions of dollars each season trying to win the drivers and constructors championships. The first race is a few weeks away and takes place in Australia (it should have been sooner in Bahrain, but with recent protests the race was suspended. sigh).

But before these cars can race, they must test. Testing sessions have been underway since early February. Here is where teams put their cars on track for the first time, testing new parts and different setups, and experiencing for the first time just how they stack up against the competition. Teams watch each other closely and size each other up, even monitoring engine notes to see if they’re running at maximum or just sandbagging. F1 is a sport where every tenth of a second counts. Imagine that your car is half a second slower per lap than your rivals. Doesn’t sound like much, but at the end of a 60 lap race, you’re 30 seconds behind and your car looks like a bus. Not something a title sponsor wants to see after pouring millions into your team.

This same principle can be applied to websites and campaigns. A/B testing and multivariate testing is nothing new, and this post is not intended to insult anyone’s intelligence, but many sites out there overlook ongoing conversion rate optimization following a new launch or redesign. Success can be quantified after a little more thought is put into visitor interaction and proper goals are defined; not just looking at visits and page views, but measurable conversions. As Avinash Kaushik, Analytics Evangelist for Google, says, “Not using goals is a crime against humanity.” With goals properly defined, tools ranging from the free Google Website Optimizer to the more expensive Omniture Test&Target are great for running tests and experiments to improve conversion funnels. This not only helps improve content relevance but also affects the bottom-line.

At the Internet Retailer Web Design & Usability Conference held in Orlando in mid-February, top online retailers such as Home Depot, L.L.Bean and Home Shopping Network were there to share their insights. Presentation after presentation, there was the same reoccurring message: test and test some more. A company like Home Depot, who has 25% of online market share, can’t afford to let things slide. They generated $68 billion in retail sales the fiscal year ending in January. If their web sales account for around 7% of that total, a small 0.1% conversion improvement can make a huge difference. In this case that tenth is worth $4.76 million. Sure, just following best practices could likely yield great results in a purely theoretical world, but every company is different and so are their customers.