Sponsored Posts – Fabulous or Terrible?

Kristy McNamee recently wrote this post about social media in beauty – and it got me thinking. She talked about reading blogs and reviews to research beauty products she was thinking of buying.

Now I don’t know about you, but whenever I read that a product has been ‘gifted for review’, I am immediately less likely to trust the opinion of the writer. I understand their desire to receive some benefit from the undoubted effort required to write a successful blog. Who wouldn’t want to be gifted products that are relevant to their area of interest??

Source: Styling You blog
Source: Styling You blog

But therein lies the problem: are bloggers more likely to give favourable reviews to increase the chances of the bounty continuing? They probably wouldn’t be human if they didn’t. And I wouldn’t expect a company to gift product for review to a blogger that gives negative reviews.

Under Australian Consumer Law, failure to disclose paid endorsements is considered misleading and deceptive conduct, and penalties can be serious. The law is less clear about bloggers disclosing when they have been gifted products by companies, although various stakeholders have pushed for such a requirement ( read more here and here).

Source: My Tornado Alley
Source: My Tornado Alley

I would hope that any ethical blogger would disclose any sponsorship or gifts, and that any company using bloggers would require that they do so. But is this enough?

I wrote at the start of this post about my scepticism regarding sponsored posts – and I suspect this sentiment is growing among consumers as more and more marketers jump on the ‘sponsored post’ bandwagon. So how should marketers respond? With caution!

Here are my suggestions:

  1. Don’t do it to often. Familiarity may well breed contempt in this space. You don’t want to appear desperate!
  2. Choose your bloggers carefully. Up and coming bloggers that may not have been blogging for long, with a rising readership, may be a good target. With luck, at least some of their readers won’t be readers of lots of other blogs, and they might find the idea of a sponsored post intriguing rather than passe. However they are less likely to have a loyal following of readers, who will trust them due to the relationships that the blogger builds.
  3. Make sure that the product aligns with the bloggers area of interest/expertise. No point giving a beauty blogger a vacuum cleaner! Also be as sure as you can be that the review will be positive. Is the product of good quality?
  4. Maybe try to think of a new way of getting your product in front of the target audience. If your product is relatively cheap and can be sampled, what about offering a sample to the first 50 or 100 readers that sign up?

What do you think? Are you automatically suspicious of a sponsored post? Or does it depend on who is posting?

Facebook Messenger for business?

I expect that most of you will by now be familiar with Facebook’s ‘Messenger’ app, since it made headlines around six months ago. There was much hysteria (dare I say paranoia?) regarding the requirement to download the app if you wanted to receive Facebook messages from your mobile device. Many wondered about Facebook’s reasons for making it compulsory. However, some of Facebook’s recent changes to its Messenger ‘platform’  (yes, apparently it’s no longer an app but a platform) may begin to shed some light:

Source: Messenger: Business
Source: Messenger: Business

Notice some common themes here? So far, the ‘Businesses with Messenger’ appears to have been created to allow businesses to communicate better with their customers… but what’s the bet they want to be able to handle every transaction from payment, to updates, to reviews of the product after it’s been received?

What do you think? Will we be paying via Messenger soon? And would you use this option, if it was available? Is this adding value for Facebook’s users, or just for the business users?

Which is the ‘best’ form of digital marketing?

The answer to this question is likely to be ‘it depends’ – on:

  • The company
  • The product
  • the characteristics of the target market
  • The purpose of the marketing/campaign (awareness? information? purchase?); and
  • The budget.

However I went searching for an ‘absolute’ answer (because we all like absolutes!). Look what I found:

Source: Marketing Charts Online
Source: Marketing Charts Online

In other words, businesses generally perceive email as being not only the most effective form of digital marketing, but also the easiest! So why then do companies pour so many millions of dollars into sophisticated social media campaigns – especially when they are perceived as not only significantly less effective, but also more than FOUR TIMES more difficult than email?

Well, consider a company sending out an email. First they need a database of email addresses – where does this come from? I guess they could buy a list – but with the increasing sophistication and wariness of internet users, how many emails would reach the intended audience? When was the last time YOU opened an unsolicited email? I’d like to bet that most companies find email most effective because they are using a self-generated database – in other words, they have created their OWN list of customers and potential customers, and are emailing people likely to be receptive to what they have to say. I wonder if the companies surveyed considered the difficulty of creating a list of emails when evaluating the difficulty of email?

So I guess this is where social media comes in – to help create a database of customers and potential customers that are likely to at least be receptive enough to an email to open it.

There are a number of tactics companies use to create email lists – the most common one I’ve noticed is when you visit a website, a pop-up screen offers a discount if you sign up for their newsletter. It’s relatively non-disruptive – usually only requiring your email and no further information – and offers an incentive in the form of a discount. Clever!

Over to you – have you noticed any other tactics companies use online to get you to hand over your email address? Did it bother you? Did you do it?

How should we segment? And how do we know which version of an ad is best?

Ok, ok, so I know those ^ are two totally separate topics… but I wanted to touch on them both today, as they were the subject of two more presenters I saw last week (and if I do them all separately I’ll be writing about the Melbourne ecommerce Conference forever!).

Adam Blakney, MD of Bold Discovery, presented on ‘Segmentation with purpose: A workshop’. I noticed a theme beginning to emerge when he spoke about ensuring that segmentation is anchored in what’s important to your business – Col Kennedy had spoken previously about the importance of identifying your business’ purpose – or why you do what you do – I wrote about his presentation in my previous post, here. Adam also spoke about the need to think of your market segments as ‘communities’ instead.

Adam’s next main point was that we all like to work with what we know, but that it is much more important for businesses to figure out what they DON’T know, and then find some answers. He also pointed out that while big data was immensely valuable for figuring out what people are doing, you still have to talk to people in order to figure out why they are doing it. This, of course, is where market research such as focus groups and in-depth interviews can provide invaluable insights.

The last point that Adam made was to encourage the use of testing what you think you have discovered in the market. Which is a great segue into the next presentation I want to talk about…

Mark Baaste is a Director of Consulting at First. His presentation was entitled ‘Don’t trust it, test it: 5 hidden tests you need to perform to unlock hidden profits’. Now unfortunately this was the last presentation, and I was a little brain-dead by this stage, so I didn’t write down his 5 hidden tests! But I do remember him talking about A/B testing, or testing two versions (for example, of an ad, to see which performs better) and he recommended a website called WhichTestWon. This site gives some really interesting test results, and also allows you to guess which of two versions (usually of an ad or a webpage) produced the best results – some are surprising!

Source: Which Test Won?
Source: Which Test Won?

I think for me, one of the big eye-openers of this Conference and Expo was the sheer number of organisations out there that are dedicated to helping other businesses (for a price, of course!). As a past small business owner (and potentially a future one) this was of great interest to me. Thanks to the internet, however, there is actually an awful lot of free information available on-line… if you know what you are looking for 🙂 And of course that’s often the hardest part – figuring out what it is that you need to know!

Did you check out WhichTestWon? What did you think?

Would you like to own your own business in the future? Can you see yourself using the services of a company that can help you with things like ad testing, or would you do it yourself?

2015 Melbourne ecommerce Conference and Expo

Hi! Thank you for dropping by, I hope you’ll stay for a chat 🙂

This is where I’ll be posting some random thoughts (and maybe some not-so-random thoughts) about digital marketing over this semester. For more info about me click the ‘about’ link above.

Today I want to tell you about some of my experiences and thoughts from volunteering at the 2015 ecommerce Conference and Expo on March 11. While some of the content went completely over my head, there was much that was very accessible, even to someone with my limited knowledge of the area!

The first speaker that ‘spoke’ to me was Col Kennedy, the Global Head of Marketing and E-Commerce at Cotton On. His presentation was titled ‘Keys to Success in a Customer Centric World’. He referenced Simon Sinek’s excellent Ted Talk, ‘How great leaders inspire action’, which you can find here (it’s well worth checking out). Col spoke at length about the importance of staying true to a brand’s ‘why’ – not what a brand does, or how it does it, but the reasonwhy they do what they do.

Col told a story about the London Disney store that was not originally as successful as expected. The decision was made to remove stock and fittings from the store (almost incomprehensible in retailing) in order to return to Disney’s ‘why’ – which was creating magical experiences. The store was refitted to replicate some of the experiences created at the theme parks, such as enchanted forests and Disney castles, and also a mini cinema and activity area that allowed customers to select Disney film clips and music via touch screens. Sales increased dramatically.

Source: John and Sigrid's blog
Source: John and Sigrid’s blog

Col spoke eloquently and passionately about the number one reason that brands fail: lack of a deep dialogue with customers. He also emphasised the importance of focusing on creating a community, where customers become part of the brand and of the brand experience. An inevitable consequence of this will of course be some negative commentary – whether deserved or not. How a company responds to this can either detract from or reinforce the brand’s identity.

Digital marketing, particularly social media, is placed particularly well to facilitate a real time dialogue with customers. As discussed in class yesterday, brands that do this well, by speaking to customers with a ‘human’ voice rather than an overly officious one, and at the times that they are likely to be seeking interaction (ie weekends) will be much more likely to attract a community of loyal customers.

I recently had an incredibly frustrating experience with the manufacturer of our dishwasher (I won’t mention the brand, but let’s just say it rhymes with LD!). When it broke down, the only service centre that covered our area had a two week backlog before they could attend to service the machine. When they finally arrived, I was told that they didn’t have the necessary part – AND that there was not even stock of that part in the country! They couldn’t even tell me how long the wait would be. After waiting a week with no communication, I left a message on their facebook page. This was responded to in a friendly and engaging manner – four days later! They informed me that they would follow up – but I heard nothing further from the facebook team. I won’t bore you with the whole long, drawn out saga – suffice to say that the machine was eventually replaced, about 6 weeks after I initially contacted them about the problem.

This is a brand that I and my partner used to regard highly; we have a number of their appliances, and know it has a good reputation. The fact that our dishwasher broke down would not have changed my opinion of the brand – but the lengthy delay, and in particular the lack of communication, have lost them a loyal lifetime customer.

In this era of instant gratification and multiple instant and easy communication channels, customers expect to be communicated with. Lack of communication can be very damaging to a brand’s reputation.

Over to you – have you ever been disappointed – or pleasantly surprised – by a brand’s communication?

And if you watched Simon Sinek’s Ted Talk, let us know what you think!