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Would You Pay to Post on Tumblr or Facebook?

Beyond • October 8, 2012

Mark Zuckerberg knows that the pressure is on. It\'s rare that a company\'s IPO is watched as closely as Facebook\'s has been in 2012, and the news hasn\'t all been rosy. After debuting on May 18 at $38 a share, the social media giant\'s share value has dipped dramatically to less than half of its initial value. Zuckerberg knows that Facebook needs to prove its ability to create new income streams, a reality that wasn\'t made any easier by General Motors\' very public withdrawal from their $10 million advertising contract with the company, citing the ads\' lack of effectiveness. With nearly one billion users, Facebook needs to figure out how to monetize its base. To that end, they may be poised to take a hint from a much smaller peer in the online sharing network, Tumblr. Highlighted Posts Since the blog platform\'s inception in 2007, Tumblr founder David Karp has remained steadfastly opposed to incorporating ads into users\' personal blogs on the site. Even with nearly 50 million users, however, it had few revenue sources apart from selling customized templates to bloggers. In February, Tumblr added a “Highlight this post” button to each blog, giving users the option of paying $1 to make their post “stickier,” meaning that it remains higher on followers\' feeds and stands out with a special message chosen by the user. I asked a friend to try this out on their Tumblr blog (I even footed the dollar). Whereas they were accustomed to receiving two or three likes per post, their highlighted entry garnered 14 in a few days\' time. That\'s still not much, but percentage-wise it\'s a huge step in the direction of heightened visibility. Facebook is already following suit, launching a beta program in New Zealand that gives various users the option of sticking their status update up on their friends\' and followers\' walls higher and longer. The trial ranged from 40 cents to $2 per post (NZ dollars), testing the waters for what users will pay. That idea seems harmless enough. If you\'re having a big party or want to recognize your sister\'s birthday, it may be worth a buck to make sure all of your friends see your post. But Facebook must realize that it\'s not their everyday non-commercial user that\'s going to take the most advantage of this. Spam City or Game Changer? Paying for heightened attention isn\'t completely new on Facebook. In January 2011, Facebook began allowing businesses to pay for “Sponsored Stories,” a feature that helps ensure a company\'s updates make it to the eyes of users that have already Liked the company. Similarly, paid posts would still only reach people that have chosen to get that business\'s page or users\' content. Still, a stack of marketing posts topping every user\'s wall could end up flipping the idea of inbound marketing (also called permission marketing) on its head. Just because a consumer approves a business to send them messages doesn\'t mean that they want to be inundated with them. This puts Facebook in a difficult bind. Unlike Tumblr, the sheer critical mass of users doesn\'t mean that the average Facebook account holder is fiercely loyal to the platform - they use Facebook because everyone else does. All those users (and shareholders), however, necessitate new income streams, and what has already worked for Tumblr is probably looking like a pretty good option to Zuckerberg and his crew. Still, it\'s not unthinkable to see paid posts being something of a Facebook killer, or at least the first critical blow. If the average Facebook users\' wall becomes a string of marketing-based posts, won\'t people begin to turn to the next new thing, from Path.com to the ever-growing Google+? Remember, Facebook, Tumblr and even Google grew before ever monetizing. People jump on web-businesses in their infancy because they are free to use and not commercialized. Figuring out how to make money comes later for the creators. Unfortunately, it\'s the toughest part. Would you pay to post on Tumblr or Facebook? Do you think you\'d stop using them as much if other people did?


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Spam, No Ma’am: Send Marketing Emails that Customers Will Appreciate

Spam, No Ma’am: Send Marketing Emails that Customers Will Appreciate

Beyond • September 18, 2012

We put up with a lot of junk in our lives. When it comes to entertainment, we\'ve accepted that we\'re going to be marketed to. From spectator sports to film and TV, ads are deeply integrated into our culture. At work, however, we have less tolerance for shameless marketing. Whether it\'s spam comments on a blog or emails pitching us a miracle pill or a lower insurance rate, our tolerance for ads in the workplace runs generally low. Most offices have sophisticated spam blockers that keep the email load under control. Estimates vary, but somewhere between 80 and 90 percent of emails sent around the world each day are considered unsolicited spam. Out of a rough average of 300 billion emails sent daily, worldwide, that\'s between 240 and 270 billion spam emails each and every day. Among the 30 to 60 billion that remain, more than half of the emails that make it through to our inbox are still marketing emails that we immediately delete. We\'re a nation of busy workers. Imagine if you took the time every day to thoroughly read every email that came across your desk. You wouldn\'t get much done, would you? So, if you\'re on the other side of things, hoping to reach your customers with information about a new product or a change in your services, how do you ensure that your message will reach their eyes? One Strike and You\'re Out Unfortunately, you don\'t get a mulligan if you send a spam-like email. Even if a customer initially trusts you and reads your email, if they don\'t find it worthwhile they\'ll likely either block your address from future messages or instinctually delete your next outreach. So how do you avoid falling into your recipients\' subconscious “delete before reading” list? Create Incentives - If you want customers to look forward to your emails, make it worth their while. Offer discounts on inventory or a specific product when they mention the e-newsletter you sent out.One reality to realize and accept: 10 and 20 percent off discounts no longer cut it for attracting new customers. Groupon and Living Social ruined that for everyone. If you want to bring customers in who wouldn\'t be there otherwise, you have to give them half-off. Don\'t worry, that doesn\'t have to be across the board of your inventory. Find a product or service where you can afford a deep discount and highlight that. People eat up “free” and “half off” like red velvet cake. Be Attractive - If you don\'t know how to create HTML content for your emails, hire someone who does. Online tracking and template providers like Benchmark offer a host of templates that can ease the process and give you professional results. If you rush through your e-newsletter creation, people will immediately overlook your words. There are enough quality, attractive emails coming across our desks that something that appears rushed and sloppy won\'t get a full read. Engage with Worthwhile Content - Sure, the reason you\'re sending out marketing emails is to generate new business. That\'s a given. But you can\'t make it obvious in your outreach. We\'re hard-wired by ad culture to immediately resist when we feel like we\'re being sold something.Instead, be like a skilled retail sales agent. Those that immediately pitch a product to a customer often get brushed off with an, “I\'m just looking.” On the other hand, if you provide useful information that\'s relevant even if the customer chooses not to make a purchase, you\'ll earn trust. And of course, trust leads to sales. Instead of just putting all your latest products in your email, offer informative editorial content. Perhaps you sell air purifiers. Instead of opening your email with the facts about your latest and greatest model, why not offer a creative report on the effects of airborne contaminants like pet hair and mold spores? Make it fun. When sending out marketing emails, take your time, be creative and make your content worthwhile and truly money-saving. Most importantly, think about your own email inbox, considering which emails you delete or read. If you\'re passionate about the quality of what you\'re sending out, that will show and your customers will respond.


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