The News Chair
  1. Whither ad blocking?

    July 6, 2016 by Christopher Lloyd

    Ad blocking meme

    Ad blocking has become a hot topic of late in integrated marketing circles. More and more software is being introduced to filter or remove advertising from webpages because people have become tired of having their content overwhelmed by sales pitches.

    One in five smartphone users now block ads in one form or another, a 90 percent increase.

    Or they’re annoyed by the longer load times, especially on mobile platforms. Or having blaring commercials pop up with distracting sounds, especially when you’re trying to work. (It happened to me while I was researching this article.)

    My personal pet peeve is when ads are the first thing to load, while you tap your foot waiting for the stuff that was the very reason you clicked to arrive!

    The potential financial impact is huge, and getting bigger all the time. The global digital marketing marketplace amounted to $78.6 billion in 2015, and is expected to reach $122 billion by 2019, according to Magna Global and Cowen & Company.

    Getting beyond the details of how ad blocking works — should we be blocking ads at all? After all, this is the primary vehicle by which content-based websites earn their revenue. If you take that away, the websites and their content will wither, too.

    Having come from a newspaper-based background, this prospect scares me. Ditto for television and the rise of Tivo and other DVR devices that let you skip past commercials with the flick of a button.

    It almost seems like we’re setting digital media up for a repeat of the long, gradual-then-faster decline of traditional media.

    Another question to ask is if blocking advertising can actually decrease the user experience. With contextual advertising, especially on social media platforms like Facebook, you see ad content based on your web history — so you’re guaranteed to see stuff that genuinely interests you.

    Speaking for myself, I like this sort of outreach from companies. I look, I click, I buy.

    As Brian O’Kelley of Forbes puts it:

    “Here’s the standard I would suggest that we apply: If ad blocking doesn’t promote a more open and dynamic Internet – if it makes the Internet smaller, erects toll booths and pay walls, or transforms it from a democratic system to an oligarchy of information and content – then it isn’t fulfilling a public good.”

    Some are even worried about an ad blocking epidemic. One of the problems is that users who are tech-savvy, early adopters and gamers tend to be those who employ ad blocking software the most. And, of course, that’s a demographic that advertisers desperately want to tap.

    My own take is that ad blocking, like most things, can be beneficial in moderation. But when you’re saying “no” to the majority of content being pitched your way, you’re sure to miss out on things that you actually want to see. That’s a lose-lose-lose situation: for you, the advertisers and the websites.

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  2. Microsoft dives into social media with LinkedIn acquisition

    June 14, 2016 by Christopher Lloyd

    LI logo

    Like many people I was rather surprised by the announcement that LinkedIn, the mammoth social media network for professionals, is being acquired by Microsoft. The $26.2 billion deal was announced yesterday, with assurances that LinkedIn and its estimated 433 million users will continue to operate as a separate unit under Microsoft’s umbrella.

    It seemed strange because heretofore Microsoft has gone conspicuously out of its way to avoid the social media battlefield, where Facebook and to a much lesser extent Twitter reign supreme. Indeed, they seem to have refocused their energies on being a software company, even going so far as to shutter their once-dominant browser, Internet Explorer.

    So why this move now, and what does it mean?

    (I should point out that while the boards of both companies have already approved the deal, it still awaits sign-off by regulatory agencies.)

    The New York Times called this Microsoft “reasserting its muscle.” Other reporting focused on how the deal will benefit the companies’ stock prices and bottom line.

    According to TechCrunch, which has made mergers & acquisitions of tech companies its journalistic bread-and-butter, this is more about Microsoft building its social networking services and professional content. They note the company’s acquisition of “private” social network Yammer in 2012 for similar reasons.

    “For Microsoft, it’s bringing a key, missing piece into the company’s strategy to build out more services for enterprises, and give it a key way to compete better against the likes of Salesforce (which it also reportedly tried to buy),” reporter Ingrid Lunden wrote.

    Translation: this will provide Microsoft with a large channel through which to market and sell its existing products.

    This especially makes sense when you think about how Microsoft is transitioning to a subscription-based model for its titan-like Office suite and other software. They no longer want to get you to buy a box of CD-ROMs once every few years, but get you on the hook for monthly payments ad infinitum.

    While LinkedIn is an important platform that companies want to be on, it operates mainly as a place for job seekers and recruiters to connect, or as a source to learn information about a particular company. It’s not necessarily a place where people go scrolling for news or social engagement.

    My prediction: assuming this deal goes through, you won’t see much difference in your day-to-day use of LinkedIn. Do expect to find more integration with Microsoft products like Cortana, Windows’ version of the digital “personal assistant,” that inevitably point you toward other features you can pony up for.

    Some, such as PC World’s Mark Hachman, have gone so far as to insist a Cortana-LinkedIn synergy is what the deal is really all about.

    “Jeff Weiner, the chief executive of LinkedIn, said that his company envisions a so-called ‘Economic Graph,’ a digital representation of every employee and their resume, a digital record of every job that’s available, as well as every job and even every digital skill necessary to win those jobs,” he writes.

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  3. Marketing in 2016

    June 13, 2016 by Lisa Deremiah

    Lisa_Headshot_3inIn this age of social media, consumers want to feel a close connection to companies. According to a recent article from Lean Labs, one of the best ways to maintain a relationship with your prospects is through “inbound marketing,” which essentially advertises a product or company without screaming “Buy this!”

    Also called “content marketing,” inbound advertising focuses more on fostering a sincere bond with potential customers or clients through content. As Jodi Harris from the Content Marketing Institute writes, “Content is essential to supporting loyal, trusting relationships between brands and consumers.”

    Don’t worry about steering away from the more obvious forms of advertising — TV commercials, newspaper ads, etc. — in favor of subtler approaches to reaching an audience. According to the Content Marketing Institute, 80 percent of prospects prefer to get company information through a series of articles on the company’s website — blogs, white papers, etc. — rather than typical advertisements.

    In terms of staying on a more personal, social path with marketing your company, prioritizing online reviews helps as well. As Lean Labs states: “88 percent of consumers trust online reviews as much as personal recommendations. Thus, you would be wise to make leaving online reviews for your business as easy as possible. Besides listing your company on local search directories, consider including a review section (or testimonials) on your website.”

    “A recommendation from a family member, friend, or even an acquaintance, carries more clout than lines recited by anonymous actors on television,” Lean Labs states — further proof that drifting from traditional advertising like TV commercials is the way to go now.

    Allowing people to write reviews is also a great way to connect with clients and prospects directly. People don’t want to engage with companies that treat their customers as faceless consumers. They want to have a relationship with the people behind the products they buy and the companies with which they do business. They want to know that you value their opinions and revise your business methods accordingly.

    Whether attracting prospects through helpful, engaging content — blogs, videos, social media posts — or connecting with them through reviews, the key is to focus on bonding with them rather than simply selling to them.

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