Friday, May 29, 2009

Blogging - The Marketing Advantage

Toledo's premier Social Media Breakfast number 3 is coming up on June 5th at 8:00 A.M. You don't want to miss this one! Dave Rigotti will be showing the group how to use blogging to blast your marketing efforts through the roof! Here are just a few things he will be covering...

  • Should I blog?
  • How do I get started?
  • What should I write about?
  • How do I integrate a blog into my current marketing efforts?
  • How do I maximize effectiveness?
  • How do I measure effectiveness?
  • What are some resources for getting started?
Act now and there is a bonus....

Each event has been pulling in 60-70 entrepreneurs, small business owners, and business leaders, which makes it a fantastic networking event as well. Still not convinced, then let me throw in an awesome breakfast. Our caterer puts out a spread that is to die for!

You get all of this for the low, low price of $15 bucks if you register ahead of time at....

If however you are a procrastinator it will end up costing you an extra $5 bucks for a total of $20 bucks at the door... still an incredible deal. However we want to save you a buck or two as the old AT&T commercials used to say so register now at...

I promise you it will be well worth your time and you will learn a lot of great stuff about using your blog to boost your marketing efforts. Dave has been running some very successful blogs for a couple of years now so he is the person you want to be listening to. I know I have convinced everyone reading this to attend so sign up today and I guarantee...

It won't wibble, wobble, shake, break, rust, bust, collect dust, or go out on a Saturday night!

Man, I watch way too many infomercials :)

Also want to point out our sponsor this month is...

PWG Marketing...

Toledo's Small Business Coach

Check him out today!

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Is Social Media Marketing a Scam?

I came across this article in PC World today where Robert Strohmeyer is writing about all the charlatans that have showed up on the social media marketing scene as consultants. I believe Robert has several valid points in his article, but I also believe he is being a bit short-sighted as well.

On the positive side I believe he is absolutely correct that suddenly a ton of "consultants" have come to the party and all of them seem to have the "secret" to utilizing this new tool called social media. Unfortunately this has been the case since time immemorial anytime a new technology or phenomenom hits that suddenly there is a ton of people claiming to understand the secrets and are the ONLY consultants who can show you how to cash in.

Also on the unfortunate side is a willing group of people who are dying to learn the "secret" or risk being left behind that they pay some of these clowns a lot of money for bad or useless advice. It is an unfortunate side effect of any new marketing medium being born. However he goes on to say that people go to social media to avoid being marketed to and that any marketing done there will have negligible benefits. Really? I would ask exactly how he is defining marketing and how it is being performed.

Over this post and future posts I will offer a few alternative points of view on this issue. As a real life Internet marketing consultant and not just someone between jobs at the moment I have to look at all of these tools and try to see how they can be used to better market your organization. Here is one suggestion that comes to mind right away...

Market Research. Doing research is a critical piece of marketing for any company big or small. Unfortunately most marketing research is extremely expensive to do and for small businesses it simply is not in the budget. For large companies they simply would not consider any research that isn't done by a large well credentialed market research firm, at least in most cases.

However social media allows someone to be the fly on the wall as the saying goes. It allows both small and large business marketers alike a chance to listen in to the marketplace and see what your potential customers are saying. Listen enough and you are likely to find out what they want and don't want in products and services and probably how to sell to them as well. Admittedly uncovering this information in the midst of all the other conversations going on isn't going to be easy or straight forward, but it can be done. Also unlike formalized market research where customers are filling out surveys or participating in some type of focus group the information you will get from social media is more raw and some would argue more real. People are more relaxed in the social media spectrum then sitting in some room with a focus group. Because there is a certain sense of anomonity in some social media situations people sometimes feel more willing to open up and share feeling, thoughts, and ideas. The point is that this market intelligence is out there if you are willing to go and look for it.

Market research through the social media spectrum is also not just a waiting game and hoping that someone will talk about your product or service. There are whole communities out there that make up your target market. Join this community and offer value, i.e. read that to not mean sales messages. Talk and share. Once people trust you then you can probably ask some specific questions and get some answers from people. In short social media is a conversation starter and there is nothing wrong if some of that conversation is about a business, product, or service.

There is also ways to use social media to get new customers and retain old customers. Real, measurable, and significant ways to do this. I will share those in a future blog post. To give you a taste, remember what I said at the beginning of the post, it is how you are doing the marketing not that you are doing it. I believe this is where Robert has gone astray in his article, but I give him credit for making several valid points and pointing out that yes indeed there are lots of charlatans out there; but just because this might be true doesn't mean that social media can't be a valid and useful marketing channel. Stay tuned for some future posts on this issue.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

NY Times on Pay to Click Fraud

Here is a story I came across done by the NY Times on pay to click fraud. They were one of the papers that did an extensive write up about this a few years ago. Here are my past comments on pay to click fraud To catch some readers up essentially what click fraud is is advertisers paying money for pay to click advertising where the people clicking on the ads are getting financially compensated and therefore are not really potential customers.

How does this situation occur?

In short I can set up a web site and choose to sign up for Google Ad Sense where I display ads that are paid for by other people on my site. When a visitor to my site clicks on one of those ads I get paid a small fee by Google for delivering the person that clicked on the ad. Now in an honest world people set up good content and advertisers support that content development with ads. People that are interested read, watch, or listen to the content and support the advertisers by clicking on the ads. Everybody is happy, sort of.

The problem occurs when one person really wants to cheat the system. They put Google Ad Sense on their web site and use either automated software or worse a large network of individuals to go to their web site and click on those ads. Every click earns them some coin. Google and Yahoo as well as other advertising providers have forensic departments and ways of supposedly figuring out which clicks are fraudulent and which ones are not. I won't spend a lot of time discussing the massive effort this must take or the obvious mistakes that must occur. I think most of my readers are smart enough to figure out the obvious problems in supposedly catching all the fraudulent clicks.

However like email spam the main issue here is economics. There is a financial motivation for people to set up sites, display ads, and find ways to generate clicks both legitimately and fraudulently. The one power on the planet I have utmost respect for is the power of economics. As long as their is economic gain to be had people will find a way to subvert and move around almost any type of blockade or system created to stop them from doing said activity. Simply put no matter what Google or Yahoo do they will never stop click fraud because the financial incentive is there to subvert any protections they put in place.

However one option not explored is to remove the financial incentive. If advertisers weren't paid by the click or Ad Sense didn't exist then the only money to be made would be by Google or Yahoo themselves and it becomes pretty simple to figure out who benefits then.

The issue however is a complex one because some people completely support their web businesses on ad revenue. These individuals provide excellent in demand content that people will read, watch, etc. and then support the advertisers. I am not suggesting this model go away I am simply saying that as long as dishonest individuals have an economic incentive to perform or encourage click fraud this will be a problem.

Right now Google has a methodology in place to track the quality of landing pages and ads. Poor ads and landing pages will pay more money for advertising and ultimately could find their ads disabled if they are too poor. Perhaps a model that evaluates the content on web sites where people will display ads is a good idea. I realize this is subjective and who gets to decide the standards, but we have all seen "web sites" that are simply parked domains loaded up with advertising links. This type of thing is not good content.

There is a distinct probability that those sites are major sources of click fraud because their isn't really any content of value on said site. It is simply taking advantage of a domain name and maybe the owner is perpetrating fraud by using automated software to go to the domain and generate clicks or writes a virus that infects computers to go generate these clicks. The hardest to detect is when the domain owner sets up a willing network of individuals to go and click on these ads. This last scenario looks like a real people doing a legitimate click through.

Therefore, I am suggesting two key things. One, as long as economic interest is there to perform click fraud it will always occur and the only way to completely stop the fraud is remove the economic interest. The second key take away is that a good first step to removing the economic motivation, at least, partially, is to judge content. Quality content providers get ads and poor or non-existent content does not. How one judges content and what is quality is an argument for another day.