Did you know Apple is not on Twitter?

When you’re one of the biggest and most loved brands in the world, you’d expect the first action someone in the marketing department would do is set up an active Twitter account.

But one of the biggest brands in the world, Apple, has decided their @Apple account and their thousands of followers should wait for any such interaction.

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Hot App Uber’s Cool Ice Cream Campaign

 

The controversial taxi app Uber has today launched an ice cream promotion around the globe.

It’s another in a series of very clever PR moves from the company who rocketed into the public consciousness with their black taxi strike stunt in June.

Yesterday, I received this email from the company:

uber ice cream

At around the same time as the above email screen shot, with well-planned cross-channel marketing, Uber announced on Twitter what was going on:

While the ferocious storms last night might have shaken Southern England, that doesn’t look set to dampen today’s impending heat-wave. Temperatures in London are expected to hit up to 31 degrees Celsius, making it the hottest day of 2014 so far.

Uber have creatively found a perfect way to take advantage of the fierce summer sun, using it for brand awareness, public good will and a load of positive column inches.

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Café Rouge are Going Underground

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The day before London experienced two days of commuting misery while tube workers held a 48 hour strike, this email from Café Rouge popped into my inbox.

We’ve looked at brilliant reactive email marketing on the e-shot blog before. However, this great example by B&Q was reactive in the truest sense of the term; it appeared in the aftermath of extremely bad storms in the UK.

Café Rouge have gone one step further.

The tube strike was announced well in advance, so they had time to plan and arrange their topical email promotion to arrive in inboxes the day before the transport closures in England’s capital.

So when subscribers opened the message it couldn’t have been any more up-to-date and relevant.

As tempting as it is to swap my dull sandwiches for their moules marinières, my commute doesn’t involve taking the tube – so asking my boss to work from a French restaurant is probably not going to happen.

I’d imagine that’s the same for a lot of people.

Yet while people might not follow the “try working from Café Rouge this week” suggestion in their droves, the email succeeds because it puts the restaurant right into subscribers’ minds with a great offer.

When lunchtime comes around, the “delay free” set menu might be too difficult to resist. Especially if your commute took twice as long as usual (and you had to skip breakfast).

Another company trying to use the strike for their benefit is Innocent Drinks who posted this picture on their Twitter feed (twice within two hours). The problem with Innocent’s tactic is that is seems entirely motivated to gain internet attention, without offering any sort of valuable promotion like Café Rouge’s two-course discount.

Innocent’s “London Transport Options” picture is overbearingly twee and whimsical, as if the whole tube strike was some sort of childhood adventure. Nevertheless, they know their followers well as the tone of the image has definitely worked from a social media standpoint – gaining a combined total of almost 5,000 retweets at the time of writing.

Clearly, reactive marketing can be an extremely worthwhile exercise, whether by email or social media. But only if it’s carried out as expertly as in these two examples.

 

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2014 Digital Marketing Predictions

There’s no psychics here at e-shot, although my colleague Pete did have an eerie case of déjà vu the other day. Nevertheless, we decided we know enough about digital media, and the way the winds are blowing, to back these five predictions for 2014. Agree or disagree? Let us know on Twitter @e_shot or @copywritertom.

 

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Premonition 1: Mobile will grow.

Smart phone and tablet growth will continue on their seemingly unstoppable upward trajectory, and the faster email marketers react to this this better:

  • According to Gartner.com, tablet shipments are expected to grow by 53.4% in 2014.
  • Revenue per mobile click will be almost double that of a desktop click, according to Yesmail in their “Email marketing compass: consumer purchase behaviour” report.
  • The Radicati Group predict the number of mobile users will grow 28% in 2014 (and a further 23% in 2015).

However, according to Equinux, in June 2013 just under 12% of newsletters used responsive design techniques to optimise their layouts for mobile devices. Such a poor amount of responsive design needs to change for businesses to take advantage of the growing market.

 

 

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2. Email will continue to be essential for marketing.

  • According to the experts at Reachmail, the number of people receiving and responding to email promotions may increase to 2.7 billion between now and 2017.
  • Uberflip report that companies spent 20% of their marketing budgets on email marketing in 2013, a figure that is projected to grow by another 10% in 2014.
  • Social media marketing will keep rising, and diversifying into arenas such as Snapchat, but nevertheless email will maintain its position as the bedrock of a brand’s campaign; the unifying format that ties together all other digital marketing strands.

 

 

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3. Higher use of HTML5 & an elevated importance of the inbox.

The inbox will no longer be a place to navigate away from. Landing pages will be less relevant and video in email will become commonplace as part of the inbox experience.

  • According to a recent study by Email Monks, 58% of users can now see HTML5 video in their inboxes.

This opportunity will start to be seized upon by more forward-thinking, creative email marketers.

  • To get a head start, contact us today because e-shot can now provide video integration with your emails as a bolt-on service.

 

 

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4. Greater personalisation capabilities and emerging location marketing.

Not only personalised “Hello, Tom” greetings at the start of emails (which should be standard if you use any respectable email marketing platform, such as e-shot). Instead, 2014 will see better ranges of tailored goods in emails.

  • 2014 will even see the budding emergence of geo-location features, mobile users triggering the display of deals and suitable content based on where in the world they are when they click open.
  • Websites adapted for customer’s habits and past transactions will become more common, beyond the trendsetters such as Amazon or Netflix.

 

 

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5. Analytics will evolve and become even more valued.

With social media marketing, measuring your return and using analytics is a convoluted process. With content marketing it’s even less quantifiable. Email marketing is the one area of digital marketing where analytics are extremely useful, and ROI is clear. In 2014 this will become even more sophisticated and useful:

  • Companies such as CANDDi bring together different aspects of web analytics to produce information about individuals that browse your site and click-through from emails.
  • These newfound advancements in big-data analytics will become far more widely utilised, revolutionising lead-generation.
  • We will see more integration of these analytics platforms with email marketing software, meaning users have a complete package to track who is visiting a site, so that chasing sales becomes more intelligent than ever before.

 

Eulogising or Exploiting? Reactive Marketing Needs to be Careful

With the growth of digital media, brands can now permeate all strands of modern life and communication. This multi-channel infiltration means that the relationship individuals have with advertising and marketing can be even trickier to negotiate than ever before.

Social media marketing is particularly on a knife-edge – because it is the arena in which brands are most desperate to penetrate.

The main tactics brands use? Trying to react as quickly as possible to any sort of news story or event. To try and carve out some attention on overcrowded news feeds and timelines filled with voices screaming to be heard.

A big problem with this is that people don’t always like to have marketing rammed down their throats. Especially with embarrassingly tenuous pretences trying to disguise the opportunism.

Evidently, it’s a difficult approach to master.

Read More: When Advert Placement Goes Horribly Wrong

A company might simply be trying to engage with the public by attempting to be relatable, human and caring. But if things are misjudged then the power of the internet to punish those brands is quite incredible.

When AT&T tweeted in honour of September 11th they were met with a huge barrage of criticism. I’m not a New Yorker and I’m not an American, but I’m not a heartless monster either. Yet I can’t see that the vicious online backlash was warranted. Their tweet (pictured) didn’t include a hard sell – or even a specific brand of phone or link to their site – instead it seems like an innocent tribute that unfortunately rubbed people the wrong way.

at&t

However you view that 9/11 twitterstorm, it underlines how you have to be extremely careful with your reactive marketing, and never more so than when a tragedy or death is involved.

Naturally, Nelson Mandela’s recent passing was seen as a marketing opportunity for some. Companies once again bravely (or naively) straddled the line between reverence and abuse, homage and exploitation.

At one end of the spectrum, Apple were met by near-universal admiration and praise for their effort, chiefly because they didn’t use Mandela. They tastefully replaced their usual homepage with a large photograph of the great man. By using the South African’s image in their normal slot reserved for highlighting Apple products they made the gesture feel respectful, and not using it on social media to drive up site traffic helped their reputation further.

nelson

On the other hand, the biggest Mandela-marketing cockup occurred when Hollywood blogger Nikki Finke (formerly of Deadline.com) took to Twitter to remember Mandela’s life and legacy. Only she went for an excruciatingly misplaced angle – combining her RIP message with the shameful promotion of an upcoming biopic about the political leader.

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It may be difficult for brands and industry professionals to negotiate moments of global mourning, but even a child could see Finke’s tweet was awful. In a very trendy and heartening way of retaliation for her insensitivity, Finke’s blunder was immortalised with the #FinkObits hashtag, mimicking her words with similarly stupid eulogies:

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(Tweets courtesy of Mediaite)

Whatever the subject matter – even when firms don’t make a monumental gaff – the likelihood of being considered insensitive is high. Engaging with the public by sharing in newsworthy moments, either commiserating or celebrating, is a dangerous line to tread. When it’s done right your brand could see an unbeatable boost in its image. Conversely, when it’s done badly… the repercussions can be monumentally damaging.

It speaks volumes that there’s a Top 5 Worst Brand Twitter Screwups of 2013 list. The mistakes come in all shapes and sizes, but there’s a valuable lesson to be learnt that social media should be handled with care. Even if you think you’re in a rush to beat your rivals to an RIP post, consider your tone first. You certainly want to be more B&Q after the St. Jude Storm than these nine brands after Hurricane Sandy.

Google Hummingbird

 

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What do Panda, Caffeine, Buffy, Big Daddy, Penguin and Jagger have in common? While they might sound like bizarre names dished out to a litter of puppies by an infant, they’re actually some of the names given to Google’s search algorithm’s updates over the years.

With the latest update, Hummingbird, Google have made their biggest algorithm modifications since 2001. This time, Google picked the name because the precision and speed of the animal apparently encapsulates their engine’s newly-honed capabilities. Although, I’m not convinced that past updates were named with such allegorical significance – I mean, Big Daddy?!

If the word algorithm is already sailing a bit over your head, and online definitions like this just make things worse, try to think of it as simply the mathematical way Google’s search engine does what it does.

In this article I’ll be examining how the search-giant unveiled the news, try to simplify and clarify what the changes mean for Googlers everywhere, whilst also taking an in depth look the impact it will have on marketers – and what they can do to adapt.

 

The announcement.

The mammoth search engine’s news was announced in typically quirky and enigmatic style. With a healthy dose of nostalgia and history, the company rounded up busloads of tech reporters at their Googleplex California HQ, before sending the confused journalists to a bland looking suburban address.

Inside the house’s garage Google revealed details of Hummingbird.

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And it was in that garage, owned by Susan Wojcicki, that Larry Page and Sergey Brin built their revolutionary tech company during the winter of 1998. In an extra special nod to that era, Google had even recreated the co-founders’ workplace in the back of the house, complete with original desks and chairs!

 

What does it do?

Hummingbird already affects around 90% of searches, which shows how far-reaching the changes are – although currently fairly unnoticeable.

To put it in as basic terms as possible, the main goal of the algorithm is that Google will now be able to quickly analyse full questions – long-tail queries – as opposed to deconstructing questions word-by-word. Then it identifies and ranks answers to those questions from the context they’re indexed.

Hummingbird aims to sift out “fluff” content that is designed exclusively for snatching SEO, in its place delivering superior, pertinent search results.

The algorithm focuses on searches that are more natural than simply lists of computer-friendly keywords. For instance, if I was to search “how to fix the hard drive on my PS3” Google now understands that I’m not shopping for a new PS3 hard drive, and will find me pages with repair guides and other answers to the question before all of the retail results.

Context is prioritised as much as the content, so that Google’s results are more relevant by accentuating the intention over simply matching phrases.

Basically, Google’s becoming more understanding – and, crucially, more conversational. When you consider the emergence of voice-activated searching, such as with Siri on the iPhone, it’s a big step that Google can now better handle the sort of questions you’d ask verbally.

 

What does it mean for marketers?

Well, former SEO signals, like inbound links and social shares, are still relevant. And Google’s response to marketing concerns is that, “In general, webmasters can improve the rank of their sites by creating high-quality sites that users will want to use and share.” Which is essentially the inbound marketing mantra anyway – good news for some!

In essence, if you blog about topics of interest then Google will now be even better at making sure you get found.

However, it’s important to comprehend these changes and start putting less of a focus on keywords and more of a focus on semantic SEO and semantic search (terms that are explained in detail here).

Content created just for the sake of getting traffic-boosting words on a page won’t have the effect it had before. With Hummingbird’s evolution, your content really has to answer questions that Google users might be asking. It’s vital that marketing objectives adapt to place a higher premium on content, but Google’s algorithm changes could also mean a new lease of life for forgotten content that may have lacked the SEO keywords before, but been undeniably worthwhile.

Even if you are placing a larger importance on your content, there are several methods to ensure Hummingbird doesn’t fly past you:

  • Put yourself in your customer’s shoes

Consider why existing customers need or want your product in the first place. Check that your content answers questions that your audience might be asking, or create content on topics they will find relevant and interesting.

  • Don’t be boring.

Even though you’re being helpful and informative, it doesn’t mean you can’t be hilarious. Or at least mildly entertaining.

  • A blog’s not the be all and end all.

Content comes in many shapes and sizes, such as infographics, videos, whitepapers, games quizzes and more. Utilise them to increase your chances of Hummingbird sending users your way. The more variety in your content, the wider the array of Googlers that will stumble across your site.

  • Analytics are your friend

If your site has a search tool, have a look at the data on what people are looking for on your site. If they’re often searching for existing content then it makes sense to produce further stuff along the same lines – but without too much repetition! If people are hunting for topics that you don’t have on your site, then it’s a pretty clear indicator that there’s demand there and you should produce something related, pronto.

  • Be social.

Hummingbird or no Hummingbird, this goes without saying; make it easy to share your content! Don’t stop at Facebook and Twitter, consider the whole range of social media – Tumblr, Pinterest, LinkedIn, Google+, StumbleUpon, Reddit etc. It’s easy to get the codes for simple and quick input of the buttons on your site, and it will really boost sharing potential by making it as easy as a couple of clicks for users to share – whatever their desired platform.

  • Love your language.

As explained earlier, a lot of Google’s changes are designed with mobile and voice searching in mind. So ensure your content’s language is clear and intelligent, while carefully thinking about sentence structure, to perform properly. In a brilliant development for content writers everywhere, now Google recognises synonyms! So you won’t end up reading articles that repeat the same words over and over and over again for hits, and Google will identify that even though you searched “incredible deals” you may have meant “great deals” etc.

British Airways’ Creative Race the Plane Campaign

A novel social-media based competition by British Airways really took off in September. The United Kingdom’s flag-carrying airline tempted entrants with the opportunity to win one of five pairs of tickets to Toronto or LA.

The competition was publicised using Twitter’s Promoted Trends and the entry requirement simply involved tweeting with the hashtag #RaceThePlane. But rather than just another bland Twitter hashtag competition that lacked the wings to get off the ground, BA’s concept was unique. And so interest really soared.

 

BA1

 

User’s tweets powered BA’s Tweetliner, a virtual plane. It raced against a real aircraft – the Boeing 787 Dreamliner – during flights between London and Toronto on September 19th, and between London and LAX on September 24th . The more tweets mentioning the hashtag, the faster the virtual plane flew and progress of these races could be tracked on a specially created website (see photos).

According to the social search and analytics company Topsy, there were over 30,000 tweets with the hashtag in 30 days.

 

BA2

 

It certainly encouraged huge social participation and ramped up positive brand awareness. Although BA did have some social media PR repair-work to do following negative publicity and press attention when a man went to the lengths of buying a promoted tweet to complain about the company’s customer service at the start of September.

 

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Yet it doesn’t feel like BA were winging it with a hastily arranged effort to patch up the negativity from one disgruntled user’s tweet. The #RaceThePlane campaign felt carefully planned to really engage Twitter users and encourage mass-participation.

When their micro-site first launched there was some ambiguity about its purpose which fuelled anticipation and intrigue, and it certainly achieved its goal perfectly in advertising their new plane. A combination of the site’s sleek, impressive design alongside the considerable allure of the prize meant BA’s social media scheme was a huge success – as well as providing a flying start to rebuilding brand positivity.

Potential of Smart Watches

Time for Change

With nearly everyone owning a mobile phone these days it felt like a safe assumption that the wrist-watch has been slowly dying out. Apart from as a fashion accessory or a nostalgic throwback, why bother wearing something so basic on your wrist when you can just as easily whip out your phone to check the time? And how about combining the two? Well, Samsung and Sony have taken it upon themselves to answer this question that nobody asked.

Sony’s Smartwatch 2 is out now and Samsung have recently unveiled their effort, the Galaxy Gear. While techies and nerds get excited by any unusual gadget – even at prices ranging between $179 and $299 – for the rest of us the whole thing seems a bit ridiculous.

Samsung’s Galaxy Gear looks like a futuristic take on the classic Casio, the ones with the calculator keypad that were popular with hipsters in 2004 and Marty McFly in the 1980s. The battery life is currently only a full day of “regular use” (whatever that means), and the presence of a spyhole camera with video recording gives the impression it’ll be popular with peeping Toms above anyone else. On top of this, the Gear allows you to answer calls which seems like an inventive but awkward idea, depending on how it works.

 

Sony's Smart Watch

 

However, I can be as disissive as I want, but Apple, Microsoft and Google are all apparently perfecting their entries into the modern timepiece market. And history tells us it’s that point when things will get interesting.

The potential for a wave-making technological development on the same level as tablets and smartphones is up for debate. But as the giants of the gadget world prepare for fierce competition, rapid developments surely won’t be far away.

Crucially, the Galaxy Gear’s biggest revelation is enabling email alerts and email access on your wrist. It’s an advancement that the marketing world needs to watch out for [pun intended].

With many companies either oblivious, or only now beginning to get to grips with formatting their messages for mobile devices, how quickly will they react to an even smaller display size? Undoubtedly, the potential for reaching prospects and customers via a device that’s permanently attached above the hand could be an opportunity too good to miss. And those that capitalise on this fastest could be unearthing a goldmine.