Say hello to Conversation Advertising: Like a post, buy a Facebook gift

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kids-talking

Today, Facebook introduced me to a whole new level of impulse shopping. This move may be more telling than the gift recommendation seems. I believe it is a new type of time-targeted micro advertising. Or, Conversation Advertising.

Let me explain.

This morning I clicked “like” on a filmmaker friend’s post on Facebook who was celebrating positive feedback he’d received on a submission of some of his work to a competition. The following appeared (identities and content hidden).

facebook-like-post-gift

Have you experienced this? Facebook wants to convert my happiness for him into a transaction. Of course I didn’t think this gesture warranted a gift. Is this a guilt play? Would my expression of gratitude mean more if I spent a little money to show it?

In a world of instant gratification and impulse shopping where checkout candy bar purchases and mobile shopping is big bucks, it appears Facebook is hoping to parlay an interpersonal exchange into a monetary one.

Let’s think about this in a different context:

Imagine you are talking with a friend on Skype and you tell your friend that you’re thirsty. How would you feel if suddenly a voice interrupted and said, “Why not go get a Coke from the fridge? It sure is refreshing on a warm spring day!” or a text ad that popped up on my computer screen or mobile and said “Stop by 7-11 on your way home from work and get a Slurpee”

That’s essentially what’s happening here. And maybe it’s time we the audience begin paying up for all this free we’ve been getting for years from services like Facebook and Skype. That’s why I believe what we’re seeing on Facebook may be a sign of things to come. What I’m calling Conversation Advertising.

The use of text or speech recognition to deliver micro-targeted advertising that seeks to take advantage of strategic moments in human interaction to suggest small purchases of products and services to meet immediate needs.

Like so many effective ads, this type of ad helps in a time of need.

In a way, this is happening already on Gmail when Google reads our emails and targets us with ads. The important difference here – and what makes the Facebook suggestions as a result of my minor interaction with a friend special – is a time-targeted ad. Here’s what I mean:

In my previous use of Facebook, I have “liked” a page and soon seen a new page suggestion or ad on the right-hand side. This usually happens in time, after I’ve browsed around a bit from page to page. (Note: I’m trying to emulate this on my Facebook page to see if it occurs immediately, as I thought I remembered it doing that sometimes, but I don’t seem to be able to replicate. Perhaps this happens elsewhere on the web?)

In Gmail, when I send an email or get an email, I see an ad on the right related to some topic in the email.

Both are still somewhat passive. They’re off to the side. In Gmail, we have a human interaction ad going on – but I wouldn’t say it is a conversation ad. This is because the ad doesn’t take advantage of a strategic moment in my interaction where a product or service may offer a solution to a problem I’m facing or need I have.

We are seeing more and more “personalized” ads – such as RFID Mini Cooper billboards and presidential campaigns micro-targeting us by using predictive analytics of the likelihood that our hobbies and purchasing habits predict our voting patterns.

But none of these are quite conversation ads.

Is the idea intrusive? Yes. Annoying? Very likely. Worrisome? Certainly. Will people “go for it?” As a citizen, I honestly hope not. But as a lover of technology, I find the prospect fascinating.

Furthermore, we may not have a choice. Nothing is free. We are the audience. Whether this type of advertising can really succeed will of course depend on how it is done. People do want conversations – they don’t like to be advertised to. Is there a way to make this form of advertising less intrusive, less one-way? I’m sure that there is. Just as there are a million annoying ads out there, there are those that we readily invite into our lives. If done right, this may be another avenue. If not, it could backfire enormously. If the ad helps me in a time of need, I may just welcome it.

Are there legal challenges to be had? Yes. Can they be overcome? Three words: Terms of Service (yes, I am oversimplifying a bit, but I sincerely believe these can be readily overcome).

Another major issue and turnoff is privacy. There again, while this may seem an overly invasive advertising method, keep in mind that we are readily giving away so much information about ourselves on sites like Facebook. We know Gmail is monitoring our emails. We know Facebook is reading not only what we like, but what we post and share. We know, though we may not want to admit it, that cookies are tracking us across the web and collecting every piece of info about us as possible. So really, is it much of a leap? We are more and more accustomed to this type of intrusiveness and seldom blink at it.

While Facebook’s move to suggest I buy a friend a gift is a bit clumsy (does it help me? Not really – No offense to my friend, but in no way would I consider buying him an impersonal gift because he heard positive feedback), I believe it does signify the beginning of something we should expect to see more and more as technology advances and individuals continue to live a digitally-tracked lifestyle. Like it or not, I believe we are witnessing the development of conversation advertising. What shape or form it takes and whether it becomes useful or not in the eyes of the consumer will depend on many things: such as how it develops and is used, whether it is truly helpful to the consumer, legal issues, and how the public reacts to it.

What do you think? How would you feel about this type of conversation advertising? What is your reaction to the Facebook “gift suggestion” discussed above, if you’ve experienced it? Where does my idea need improving? What am I missing? I’d love to chat about it.

Cheers!

– Matt

More on Facebook: Related Posts

I’ve been talking a bit lately about how “uncool” Facebook is becoming among young adults.

The recent move by Facebook to charge us to email someone we are not friends with through the service.

photo (top) CC Burning Image (bottom) CC Marco Trezza Photography

Upcoming Events: Speaking on Social Media and Democracy

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Image

I am very excited!  Tomorrow, April 30th, I will be traveling to Washington, DC to participate as a U.S. Speaker and Specialist in the United States State Department’s Bureau of International Information Programs (IIP). This amazing program, which I had the honor of participating in last year, provides informational outreach around the world.

This engagement will be in partnership with the U.S. Embassy in Bratislava in the Slovak Republic. I will have the pleasure of speaking via video conference with students in Slovakia. The subject I will be speaking on is the rise of social media as a tool for democratic participation, my area of research expertise.

I recently had an opportunity to speak on a similar topic to the Rotary Club of Shepherdstown West Virginia. However, my presentation to the IIP will be focus more on my recent and forthcoming publications.

Thinking over the many changes we’ve seen in social media and political campaigns in the last few years, I’m excited to share some new thoughts and preliminary findings from our 2012 election survey.

I hope everyone’s semester is coming to a close in a relaxing and non-chaotic fashion as possible!

-Cheers!
Matt

photo: CC y robposse

What I’m Reading: Content Marketing, Social TV, Civic Engagement (4/26/13)

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Happy Friday! Here are a few quick reads and news to go along with your coffee this morning!

coffee

I’ve been talking content marketing a lot lately on this blog and have noticed a great deal of interest in those posts, including my critique of Marketo’s ebook. Here are a few articles I’ve been reading lately about content marketing:

Article about content marketing luring away journalists.

In other News:

Social TV has been a hot trend of late. I’ve talked about it quite a bit with my students and its advantages. A few articles from this week:

Civic Engagement and Social Media

Matt News:

Here at Shepherd, today is the last day of the semester. I have big plans for the summer – lots of reading, prepping two classes, continuing to grow my blog, working on a number of research articles with my amazing colleagues, and hopefully presenting at AEJMC in DC this August.

My amazing wife and I are traveling to New Zealand and the Cook Islands to finally celebrate our wedding!

We’ve also committed to getting a dog – a bergamasco (yes, the “dreadlock dogs”) – which we will be getting in August.

Great Customer Service still Exists! – Things didn’t work out with the Husqvarna lawnmower I bought, despite all my research. There was something wrong and the thing had no power. Dealing with Lowes, both the online and local stores, was the best customer service experience I’ve had in years. They took the lawnmower back with no charge for picking it up. And after I made up my mind what I wanted (I went with John Deere), they delivered it and told me if it didn’t meet my expectations, I could return it no questions asked in 30 days. Lowes, it seems, understands the value of a loyal customer. To show my appreciation, I Tweeted @LowesCares because I don’t think we show appreciation often enough on social media. We are often quick to gripe. Minutes later got a thanks from Lowes.

What are your plans for the summer? Are there stories in these topics I missed? Share them in the comments section below.

– Cheers! Matt

photo CC  donjohann

Update to Status of New Classes and Concentration

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getexcited

Great news! Monday night, the Shepherd University Curriculum and Instruction committee approved the classes I have created and the Strategic Communication concentration I have been working on since my arrival in the Department of Communication at Shepherd University.

The new concentration will offer students an opportunity to learn to use social media, digital tools, and other forms of communication to plan and execute strategic campaigns.

I am very thankful to the committee and my department for their enthusiastic support!

While a lot of work has been done and this is a great accomplishment, there is more to be done before the concentration becomes part of the university curriculum.

Next stop? I must next present the concentration to the Board of Governors here at Shepherd. Stay tuned!

graphic CC by  Nitevision

When Content Marketing Fails to Deliver: 6 problems with Marketo’s Ebook

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Note: In a previous post I discussed how I am teaching Content Marketing in my Writing Across Platforms class next fall and why we should teach it in the writing class.

I am going to come out and say it. I am glad none of my students were behind the creation or promotion of Marketo’s recent e-book “50 Tried and True Social Insights From Real Marketers.”

Here are 6 reasons why.

push

1) Pushing isn’t social: First, I saw the following spammy post in a social media group I’m a part of, counter to the very ethos of social media (Should have been skeptical from the start, right?). I skimmed and found:

There’s a ton of content on how to do social marketing – but this FREE eBook is different than any I’ve seen before….

You’ll get fascinating insights on how different organizations – large to small – are using social marketing, and get tips and best practices on:
• The rules of social engagement
• How to measure and iterate on social programs
• Ideas to generate social lift
• Social marketing words of wisdom
• Why content is king
• How to make social a group effort

Cool! I thought. Different. Unique. A ton of content! So I followed the link, gave them my email address (see: regret), and got the ebook (If you are so inclined, you can here). I’d never heard of Marketo before.

What would have worked? Perhaps a post that didn’t read like an ad. Some such thing as: “Hey all, last week we were talking about XYZ. I came across this ebook titled Blah Blah. It really helped me understand how to deal with a particular part of XYZ. Enjoy and let me know what you think. I’d love to talk about it.”

Which leads me to the rest of my points:

2) Proof Read – Tips #1 and #11 are the same. Carelessness kills credibility.

3) Where’s the eBook? This piece of content marketing is passed off as an ebook. There are 10 pages including the cover and 1 back cover. But much of it is gloss and graphics. In terms of content, there may be 2 pages of text here. There are some great quotes and insights. Don’t get me wrong. But, really… that’s all they are.

4) Help me, Help me! How is what you’re offering add value to my life? Rather than tell me 50 general statements that are not actionable, help me. Show me HOW to do something. How this newfound knowledge can be applied. A series of blog posts or ebooks about each one of these items, with context, evidence (they are tried and true, right?), reasoning, and suggestions would go much further in helping me improve my social media. Give me examples I can follow. Outcomes. Best practices. As one commenter on the LinkedIn thread (see below) pointed out, much of the content is “common sense.”

5) Is it unique? If it isn’t entertaining, new, different, or going to help me, don’t waste my time. Prognostications and platitudes are a dime a dozen on social media.

6) The Pitch: What’s delivered must match the claim – how often do we read hyperbole in social content nowadays? Tweets that read “The Best Description of Graph Search.” YouTube videos titled “The Greatest Touchdown Of All Time!” “The Only SEO Guide You’ll Ever Need!” I know strong language grabs attention, and there are tons of blog posts about writing great headlines that preach this sort of thing (I plan to talk about it in my class, in fact!). But it is becoming overdone. And when something’s overdone it becomes noise. Meaningless. In this particular case, the title is fine. There are 50 insights. My problem here is how the content was pitched on social. I don’t know if the person who posted it was affiliated with Marketo or not. The language on the Marketo site is a little different, though it contains some of the same content from the social post. But a ton of content? Not really. Different from any other ebook out there? Yes, in that it isn’t an ebook. Fascinating? No. Tried and true? Where is the proof that they are tried and true? They are indeed insights, some of them very valuable.

I want my students to be great at social media. I want them to create great content. In all my classes, I have a bias towards showing students the “Heck Yes!” examples – something exemplary that they can aspire to. For better or worse, I tend to shy away from the “Don’t Do This!” examples such as this one.

But for the reasons mentioned above, this post got under my skin. Apparently, I’m not the only one who felt cheated by this content marketing attempt. A thread on LinkedIn reveals a number of folks who agree (and disagree!) with my assessment.

Content marketing is about adding value. Deliver something that shows your thought leadership, that provides your target audience with useful insight. Don’t waste their time. I’m not Marketo’s target audience (although I am looking to build a partnership with a social media analytics software company to use in my classes). But if I were, this wouldn’t do it for me.

What are your thoughts about this? Is it bad content marketing, or am I being too harsh? (Maybe its the end of the semester stress getting to me!) Where am I wrong? Can you think of other examples you can share?

Related Posts:

  1. Why We Should Teach Content Marketing in the Writing Class
  2. Introducing Students to SEO Keyword Research with Google Trends (Activity)

photo (from top to bottom): CC by Steve Snodgrass | marc falardeau |  doodleatwork |  Betchaboy

Pay-Per Networking: Facebook Now Charging You to Contact Non-Friends

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It appears Facebook has followed through with rumors and reports that the social networking service may begin charging to contact celebrities and “non-friends.”

That day, it seems, is here. A student of mine just dropped by my office to let me know the news. I tested it, and it is true for me as well.

Try it. Find someone you’re not friends with on Facebook and see about messaging them.

Here’s what I found when I tried to Message someone I’m not friends with on Facebook:

facebook_pay-to-message
I can see charing to contact celebrities, but people I don’t know? Facebook, seriously? Several weeks ago I blogged about how Facebook is losing its grab with young adults. This may leave Facebook holding on by a pinky. My student’s exact words when she told me about this were “Facebook is dead.” There again, perhaps people won’t use this service and so its impact is negligible. But the turn off is real.

Now there are ways around this, and people will get creative. The most basic is the “other” inbox that you can send these messages to. Privacy settings indicate that you can modify what comes to your normal inbox and your “other’ inbox. Admittedly quick poking around did not indicate a clear fix for this.

Facebook’s help page also indicates that if you receive messages you don’t want, you can filter them to your other inbox. This may also mean that marketing messages and spam will soon be coming to our Facebook inboxes, a la our email addresses.

What do you think? What does this mean for Facebook? Has social networking lost its innocence? 

Introducing Students to SEO Keyword Research with Google Trends (Activity)

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On my last post I talked about Why I’m teaching Content Marketing in the Writing Class. One of the reasons I gave was the close connection between social media, SEO, and content marketing.

Today, we must teach students to write for 2 audiences:

  • Humans – you know, those organisms you interact with on social media.. oh, sometimes in real life too.
  • Search Engines – Where wonders cease and answers are found.

seo_cartoon

For written assignments, students in Writing Across Platforms (see syllabus) will conduct keyword research to optimize their content for the web.

As one way to introduce my students to SEO and keyword research, I use the below in class exercise with Google Trends (formerly, Google Insights). Google Trends allows users to see and compare trends on what Googlers are searching for, by showing search volume across time. Users can break down trends by category, such as geography.

We also discuss keyword research via Google Adword Keyword Search Tool. But I like to talk about Google Trends first because it is easy to use and a bit more approachable with its visual layout, including interactive maps.

Google Trends Activity and Discussion (Time: 15-20 minutes). Note: Lecture notes at bottom of blog post.

In class, I explain how search engines like Google seek to rank content based on relevancy and credibility so they can deliver the best content to searchers. The algorithms for ranking content are complex and constantly changing. But the question for anyone seeking to get their content in front of the right eyeballs remains the same:

How can we optimize our content to increase the chance people will find it online?

  1. I explain how Google Trends can be used to see what characteristics or features of a topic people search for (you can see the slides below). I ask students to imagine they are writing content for a new Volkswagen. How can they know what features of the new car to highlight in their content?
  2. I use this example because Google already has a great video explaining the results of a keyword search topic. So after we discuss some popular features, I show them the video example.
  3. Then we go to Google Trends and try it for ourselves.
  4. I then give them an in-class activity with a similar scenario asking them to find out what people search for most regarding a particular topic. I prompt with:
  5. Imagine you work for a client who wants to promote a new gym. What do people seem to be most interested in?
  6. Look specifically at Maryland. What do they search for in Maryland?
  7. How could you apply this knowledge to target user interest?
  8. Students go to the following Google Doc (http://bit.ly/WAP_GTrendsEx) and follow the instructions and visuals to walk them through the steps on Google Trends.
  9. This brief activity is followed by discussion of what they found, and their thoughts on how this information could be used.
  10. In my experience (I taught this in a social media class in the past), students at this point are excited about this tool and want to compare a topic they are interested in – maybe ice cream flavors, celebrities, brands, etc. I’ll ask students to make predictions on what topic is being searched for most and why. Often, we are surprised by what we find, which makes for a great discussion. We have lots of fun spending a few minutes doing this kind of exploration!
  11. I end by emphasizing that one way to use Google Trends is to see what people care about the most when they search for a topic, whether it be cars, gyms, et cetera.

From there, we move on to discussing Google Adwords Keyword tool, which I’ll save for a future blog post.

Check out the associated slides for this class and the class before it where I explain SEO and linking below:

What is SEO and link building and why do they matter?

Keyword Research Activity: Google Trends and Adwords (relates directly to above blog post)

What do you think? How do you teach your students about keyword research and search engine optimization? Would love to hear your exercises and thoughts below.

Cheers!
– Matt

Related Posts:

  1. When Content Marketing Fails to Deliver: 6 Problems with Marketo’s Ebook
  2. Why We Should Teach Content Marketing in the Writing Class

top cartoon: Some rights reserved by seanrnicholson

A Social Media Education Blog by Matthew J. Kushin, Ph.D.