The Evolving Digital Landscape

Featured

Evolution of Digital

 

 

Image courtesy of Leanport Software Pvt Ltd

The Evolving Digital Landscape – 2016
by Steven Copertino

The Digital Landscape continues to evolve in both ways we could have predicted and ways we could never have imagined just several years ago. Below is a listing of things that strike me as particularly relevant and interesting. What are your thoughts?

Snapchat Dominates At SXSW In 2016

  • Snapchat did not have a presence at SXSW, nor did they do any advertising there
  • Snapchat generated 192 million impressions on Twitter from SXSW – more than any other brand (3/6 – 3/16)
  • It’s a messaging app created in 2009 by Students at Stanford University. By early 2016, users were sending      7 billion photos and videos PER DAY – more than tripling between June and Nov of 2015 alone. (FB 8 bill/day)
  • The messages self-destruct after 10 seconds – images, videos or text. You can create a story that lasts for 24 hours
  • Bought by Facebook for $20 billion in 2014 – Snahchat has over 100 million active users per day
  • Brands creating unique content for Snapchat – NatGeo, CNN, MTV, Buzz Feed, Comedy Central, WSJ, Food Network, ESPN, People, Cosmo, Mashable and many others…

“Desktop” Matters Less and Less

  • No secret that desktop users have been flocking to mobile in droves
  • But only this year did mobile traffic finally overtake desktop traffic
  • Growth hasn’t slowed. In fact, some companies are preparing for desktop to stop mattering altogether
  • That means it’s more important than ever to have a mobile component to your digital strategy

Video Is Becoming The New Normal

  • For a while, written content dominated the digital landscape, but videos are taking over – 20% of digital budget in 2016 vs 17.7% in 2015 (display, search and social higher but video is pulling $ from them)
  • Thanks to wider availability of lightning-fast internet (and smaller screens that favor video over text), video content is becoming preferred and more popular among publishers
  • Social platforms like Facebook and Twitter are auto-playing videos in news feeds and rewarding video contributors
  • Google is considering allowing video ads in its SERPs
  • If you don’t already have a video content strategy, it’s time to get one. (don’t forget imagery, data visualizations, illustrations as well)

Omni-channel Is More Important Than Ever

  • Studies show that 90% or more of consumers’ interactions with a brand employ more than one device/channel
  • For example, a customer might search for a business/product/service with a smartphone and then continue using a laptop or by calling or visiting in person
  • It’s very important for marketers to work collaboratively to study ALL channel interactions and customer behaviors and to adjust accordingly – data is key

The Humanization Of Digital

  • Social media started this trend years ago by showing brands they no longer control the conversation nor the definition of their brand
  • There is a movement towards more “human communication” – content with warmth and humor instead of corporate buzzwords, and making communication more authentic through humor, visuals and storytelling.
  • It’s the humanization of digital to make brands feel more real and differentiated
  • UGC is a great way to help warm up your digital presence – customer blog posts, customer ratings & reviews, etc. – search engines love UGC!  

 Digital Marketing Needs To Be Even More Data Driven

  • This is nothing new, but it is. The expectation is for real-time changes based on data and for a personalized experience
  • Digital marketing is both an art and a science
  • Successful marketing comes from collecting, analyzing and using data about when and where customers spend their time
  • In short, data is behavior. Learning from this behavior drives creative messaging and strategic campaigns
  • Tracking behavior and tapping into the emotional connection through messaging, ads, social, and design makes all the difference in the digital space
  • Content personalization is a consumer expectation

Social Engagement Is Key

  • There’s a lot to be learned from your audience online
  • You’ll get honest feedback on campaigns and messaging, for one
  • Incorporating your fans’ interpretation and opinion of your brand can get you both fresh content and loyal fans
  • Create incentive for fans to write, tweet, take photos, share videos, etc
  • Reward them for their participation and loyalty by giving them the spotlight in your campaign.
  • Think holistic strategy, rather than specific tactics. Each social channel, blog post, email, weblink must have a purpose and drive towards something
  • Never post simply to post
  • Without engagement or traffic, those posts are a waste of time and money

Social Is Starting To Mean Much More Than “Social

  • Social media apps change a little more every year, but for the most part, those changes have been made to introduce new kinds of social interactions or simplify old ones
  • Now, social apps are moving in non-social directions; for example, Pinterest is leading a new trend of social/e-commerce hybrid apps, which offer social functionality combined with purchasable items, and Facebook is developing its own digital assistant

Feel free to share your thoughts.

Ad Age’s Digital Predictions 2016

Featured

From the Demise of Texting to the Next Phase of Facebook Messenger

Published on January 14, 2016.

tablet

Facebook’s Messenger Opens for Business
Facebook’s chat app is poised to become the social network’s next big revenue stream. Originally an instant-messaging service, Messenger was spun off into its own app in 2014. And after a series of announcements, now it’s ready to start up its own business. Last year Messenger began testing ways for businesses to use the service as a customer support line and for people to use it as an artificially intelligent assistant that can do things like order an Uber car. As more people use Messenger to communicate with businesses, expect Facebook to find a way to charge companies for the privilege, as it’s done with its own social network. –Tim Peterson

The Death of Texting
Emojis ruled in 2015. But GIFs, those quick looping videos or animations, are the next messaging app trend. In Asia, GIFs have been huge on apps like WeChat and Line. The appeal is obvious: Why use a standard yellow smiley face when you could send someone a three-second cat video? The fancier, funnier cousins of emojis are familiar from sites like Tumblr, but they’re about to get much more mainstream in Western markets, since Facebook finally embraced them. Facebook Messenger integrated a GIF-finder, and some brands have been using them on Facebook too. Between emojis and GIFs, who really needs text anymore? –Angela Doland

Headhunters Look to China
Given the explosion of online shopping in China and how crucial that market is, more multinationals will tap executives with experience there to oversee their worldwide e-commerce strategy. Case in point: Mars recently promoted its China general manager, Clarence Mak, to chief customer officer and global e-commerce leader. Mondelez International’s Cindy Chen, global head of e-commerce, also has worked in China. –Angela Doland

Refined Virtual Reality
This year will deliver more sophisticated virtual reality experiences, refined storytelling and increased layers of interactivity, given the consumer arrival of the Oculus headset and a variety of big deals in the space. Oculus partnered with premier VR storytellers Felix & Paul Studios to develop long-form, narrative content. Disneymade a $65 million investment in Jaunt VR. And 20th Century Fox is diving in as well, unveiling “The Martian Experience,” based on the blockbuster movie, at its Fox Innovation Lab during the Consumer Electronics Show.–Ann-Christine Diaz

2016 Won’t Be 360-Degree Video’s Breakout Year
There are plenty of reasons to believe 2016 will be the year that 360-degree videos hit the mainstream. Two of the biggest digital video services, Google‘s YouTube and Facebook, already support the format that lets people swivel their viewpoint all the way around a scene. And Facebook’s Oculus VR has finally begun selling the long-awaited consumer version of its virtual-reality headset that, like Samsung‘s Gear VR and Google Cardboard that are already in the market, is more tailored to 360-degree video viewing than a smartphone.

But while the ways to watch 360-degree videos have grown, there’s still the question of what people will watch. The New York Times, Vice and Disney are among the content companies already producing 360-degree videos, but too many of the 360-degree videos currently available offer beautiful documentary-style landscape shots yet lack a clear story or characters that can entice mainstream audiences and offset the format’s learning curve. If people are to tune in to 360-degree videos consistently, those videos must survive the novelty of the form; their content needs to rival, if not surpass, what people could watch normally. And for that to happen, filmmakers need to experiment with the form. That will likely require more time than 2016 holds. –Tim Peterson

Read the Full Article:  http://adage.com/article/digital/ad-age-s-digital-predictions-2016/302095/

The Internet of Things Is the Hackers’ New Playground

Featured

July 29, 2014, 5:49 AM PDT By Arik Hesseldahl
The Internet of Things - Hacked

Excited about the promise of the shiny new Internet of Things? Good. Because hackers are too. Or at least they should be, according to a study by computing giant Hewlett-Packard.

The company’s Fortinet network security unit conducted an analysis of the 10 most popular consumer Internet things on the market and found 250 different security vulnerabilities per product for an average of 25 each. Unfortunately HP doesn’t identify each product but does describe them in broad brush-strokes: They were from the manufacturers of “TVs, webcams, home thermostats, remote power outlets, sprinkler controllers, hubs for controlling multiple devices, door locks, home alarms, scales and garage door openers.”

As a basic rule, these devices often run stripped down versions of the Linux operating system, and so will have many of the same basic security concerns that you might expect to be in place on a server or other computer running Linux. The problem is, the people building them aren’t going to the effort to secure them the way they would a more traditional computer.

What’s happening says Mike Armistead, VP and general manager of HP’s Fortify unit, is that manufacturers are rushing to get their products on the market without doing the harder work of locking their devices down against the most basic kinds of attacks.

Magnifying the potential for the problem is the fact that once one device is compromised, overlapping vulnerabilities can lead an attack from one to the other. If that seems like alarmist paranoia, remember that one of the most damaging hacking attacks in history, the Target breach, in which information on more than 70 million people was compromised, was carried out by way of an attack on a system used to manage and maintain the heating and ventilation system in the company’s stores.

Read the full article on RE/CODE

B2B Approach To Social Media

Featured

B2B Approach To Social Media (click here)

B2B Approach to Social Media

 

Google Follows Facebook and Twitter Into App-Installation Ads

Featured

Adds Targeted App-Install Ads Within YouTube and Mobile Search

By . Published on April 22, 2014

admobgooglelink

Google on Tuesday plans to introduce its latest updates to AdWords, its core search product, and allow app developers to buy ads promoting installed apps in paid mobile search and YouTube. In 2011, Google introduced app-install ads in mobile search. Consumers have been able to open pages within apps via organic search results on mobile since November, but now the company is offering the capability to paid search advertisers.

The news comes a weeks after Twitter started selling app install ads, following Facebook’s lead. Yahoo is floating the idea as well.

YouTube’s app install ads will run with TrueView, the in-stream service that allows users to skip through videos, the company said. It was added to mobile in August of 2012.

A mobile ad with the new capability of opening an installed app on a user’s phone.

Read more…

Twitter to Offer Mobile Ads Beyond Twitter In Bid for Revenue

Featured

Twitter to Sell App Install Ads Across Mobile Apps Through MoPub

By . Published on April 17, 2014.

twitter_app_install

Twitter’s app install ads

Twitter’s ad world just got a little bigger.

The messaging service — whose business is already 75% mobile — started selling ads in mobile apps beyond Twitter today, a key rationale of its purchase of MoPub, a mobile adexchange it purchased in September.

MoPub will allow Twitter’s advertisers to buy mobile app install ads through the exchange. App install ads are today the mobile web’s dominant form of advertising and a key source of revenue for Facebook and other publishers.

Via the integration, advertisers can buy mobile app install and app engagement ads on Twitter, as well as on the thousands of apps within MoPub’s network, which include WordPress, OpenTable, the mobile messaging app Tango, and the music-streaming app Songza.

Twitter’s intention to launch mobile app install ads has been a poorly kept secret. Promoted tweets with Twitter “Cards” attached in which users can click to install an app have been materializing in users’ Twitter streams over the last few weeks.

Though still in a private beta, mobile app install ads will be available for purchase in Twitter’s ad auction, and other targeting parameters can be applied to them. But separately, advertisers will be able to participate in real-time bidding to buy mobile app install and app engagement ad inventory programmatically via MoPub within the Twitter ad system. Those ads will appear as banners, interstitials, video and sometimes in native formats.

Read more on Ad Age.com…

Link

ellen_oscar_selfie_3x2

 

Forget the Selfie: Samsung Is Out-Innovating Apple in Marketing Samsung’s Agency May Be Exaggerating, But It Has Something To Brag About

What was the brand and advertising value for Samsung of the infamous “selfie” taken by Ellen DeGeneres at the Oscars? Do we really know?

It was the tweet heard around the world, but was it worth $1 billion?

That was the value Publicis Groupe CEO Maurice Levy put on the star-studded Oscar smartphone “selfie” during an interview in Cannes earlier this week. He also immodestly took credit for it, which is a stretch because while Publicisbuying arm Starcom Mediavest did broker Samsung‘s sponsorship of the Oscars, the tweet itself was spontaneous, according to two sources with knowledge of Samsung’s marketing.

Now, without that $20 million Oscars sponsorship, Ellen DeGeneres would likely have taken the shot with her preferred iPhone, so Mr. Levy can indeed take some credit for setting the stage (the Wall Street Journal reported the agency negotiated with ABC to integrate Galaxy phones into the show).

More…

 

Why the Trend of Global CMO Has Reached Its Tipping Point

Featured

 

Hint: It’s Not Just About Having a Single Brand Image Worldwide. Digitization and Globalization of Media Are Now Driving the Shift

 

By: , Advertising Age

Published: June 13, 2011

Headshots
(from l.) Keith Weed, Marc Menesguen, Candace Matthews, Tony Palmer and Jim Farley

The year 2010 will be known for many things, but in the marketing world, it might be the tipping point of the global CMO.

Last September, L’Oreal tapped Marc Menesguen as its first global chief marketing officer, a month after Ford Motor Co. appointed Jim Farley group VP-global marketing. In December, General Motors Corp. broadened U.S. marketing chief Joel Ewanick’s responsibilities to global CMO. Last April, Estee Lauder anointed its first executives with global scope across all brands.

While global marketing has been a growing force for decades, chief marketers with truly global scope have only become the norm in the past few years among global players like Unilever, Nestle, Levi’s and Wal-Mart Stores.

It’s not just about making the most efficient use of resources or presenting a single brand image worldwide. Part of the rationale is speeding up the process of finding what works in one place, then making it work everywhere else.

“If you went back four years ago there was a huge disparity between markets where we had really good marketing and the markets in which we didn’t,” said Tony Palmer, who became chief marketing officer of Kimberly-Clark Corp. in 2007. “If you looked at the markets where we were renowned as a great marketing company, our margins were better and we had much better market positions. Basically we had the same brands, but the marketing and innovation was better in those countries.”

Those weren’t necessarily the big high-profile ones you might expect, but rather Australia, Israel, Brazil and South Korea. Mr. Palmer said K-C determined that if it raised marketing performance everywhere to the level of those four, it would produce a sales bump “in the billions of dollars.”

Another big reason Unilever and others are turning to global CMOs is, as Chief Marketing and Communications Officer Keith Weed puts it, “The twin-headed trends of digitization and globalization feed off each other and accelerate the combination.”

Facebook and YouTube either didn’t exist or had very limited impact in 2005, he noted, and their growth alone has made marketing more global. They’re among the stops that make his annual trip to Silicon Valley a necessity.

The globalization and digitization of media have made it both more possible and necessary to focus on the global Unilever brand, Mr. Weed said. “People are much more aware of the companies behind the product brands now.”

As Amway was about to turn 50 years old, it took a strategic look at what it needed to do to keep growing in the next 50, said Candace Matthews, who came on as the company’s first global CMO more than three years ago. “Part of that was really realizing we needed to become a global enterprise instead of independent affiliates rolled up in a holding company,” Ms. Matthews said.

What Amway found was that the company everywhere stood for “a business opportunity [for distributors] with great products.” Simply put, Ms. Matthews has been charged with tweaking that to be “a great business opportunity that also has great brands.”

The rise of the global CMO also reflects a rise of more globally oriented consumers and a much broader cadre of lower-ranking global marketers.

Georgia Garinois-Melenikiotou, senior VP-corporate marketing of Estee Lauder Cos., points out that she is not a CMO, but she does occupy the company’s new global marketing role in part because of growth in the number of cosmopolitan consumers who are the core of the company’s consumer base. By 2020, she said, “1.6 billion people will be global travelers living in megacities, and they will be my prime target.”

Beyond the C-suite, the population of global marketers is exploding, too. Marc de Swaan Arons, chairman of EffectiveBrands, noted in his book “The Global Brand CEO” last year that he estimates only about 25,000 marketers had the descriptor “global” in their titles in 1999. As of last year, per LinkedIn, more than 540,000 marketers had “global” in their titles.

 

A Recipe for Building and Implementing a Social Media Plan

Featured

Social Media Terms Word JumbleSo, you work in the corporate marketing department and your boss wants to know what “your” plan is for social media in 2011 and beyond. After clearing your throat and fumbling with a few papers on your desk, you tell him or her that you have been working on it and should have the plan ready to present in the next week or two.

So you’ve bought yourself some time but what next? Well you do a web search for how to build and implement a social media plan and come across some articles like this one which provide you with enough of a framework to put together a sound plan. What would we do without the internet?

There are a number of variations to this approach but the fundamentals remain about the same. This particular process is intended for a large company but can just as easily be followed by smaller organizations.

Step 1 – Define your Objective(s). Objectives can be things like building brand recognition or loyalty or providing customer service or indirect sales (direct sales via social media is best left to those who have already followed and implemented a plan like this). Be careful not to make your objectives so broad that they cannot be measured. It’s also worth stating the obvious – one person or one group for that matter should not be defining the social media objective(s) for the entire company without input from other key internal stakeholders and ideally one or more subject matter experts.

Step 2 – Understand Your Audience. Will you be interacting with happy or unhappy customers, former customers or prospects, or all of the above? Also don’t forget that whoever your intended audience is, there will be others watching and listening. This includes shareholders, the competition, legislators, regulators, current, former and prospective employees, your business partners, vendors and more.

In order to fully understand your audience you also need to know where they are. Are they on Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, industry or competitor blogs, Digg, Delicious, etc.? Are they passive, meaning they are mostly in read-only mode, or are they active in generating messages and commenting on others’ messages? To fully understand this you will need to learn about social media monitoring tools. These tools help track sentiment towards your company or brand as well as the volume of mentions and how influential the person or people talking about your company or product are. Influence is usually gauged by the number of followers someone has, but that is not the only factor. You may be familiar with TweetDeck or Seesmic which are among many basic and free social media interface and monitoring tools. More sophisticated and expensive tools include Radian6, Sysomos, Lithium and others.

Woman on laptopYou can also do some basic look-alike modeling where you input the demographics of the audience you will be engaging (for example your customer demographics) and find out where others who share the same demographic profile are and understand what their social tendencies are as well. Forrester offers a free Social Technographics profile tool on their web site.

Understanding your audience, where and how they engage is an important step in the process, especially as it relates to staffing and operations which is discussed later on.

Step 3 – Assemble a Cross-functional Team. This is a step which arguably can be skipped if you work in a small company, but beware of the dangers of leaving out key internal stakeholders if you do. Generally speaking, a cross-functional team should include members from marketing, sales, public relations, internal communications, human resources, legal and customer service. Obviously this list of departments should be adjusted to suit each organizations unique structure. Also, the level of the participants should be such that they are close to the day-to-day operations and therefore aware of potential challenges, yet empowered to make day-to-day decisions on behalf of that department.

All teams need leaders and it is customary though not mandatory that someone from the marketing department lead a team such as this. Having a strong project manager on the team is a tremendous asset as well as there is no substitute for excellent process and project management.

Once the team is assembled, make sure that they understand their objectives and what is in and out of scope. Ideally there will be an executive-level sponsor of this initiative who has or will take on some of the tougher decision-making assignments with his or her peers.

The cross-functional team (team) should understand and agree with the social media strategy and objective(s) and understand the make-up of the primary and any secondary audiences. If this is not the case, then this is a good way to build some team dynamics and synergy.

Step 4 – Study Best Practices & Lessons Learned. Once you begin searching the internet, you will find that there is no lack of free information or best practices and lessons learned as it relates to social media. What’s more, the information is in a constant state of change and evolution and requires regular monitoring and engagement. Join online discussion groups and forums like those on LinkedIn and elsewhere. Read AdAge DIGITAL and other online publications and blogs and subscribe to Twitter accounts that blog about social media. Also pay close attention to your competition so that you know where the bar is set in your industry. You may see things that you want to emulate and other things that you want to avoid.

Step 5 – Set Goals. Again, depending on how your company operates, goals may have been set at the beginning of the process. Regardless, take the time to socialize the goals with the team and to ensure they pass the test of being measurable and attainable. Start with simple goals like getting a certain number of people to “Like” your company’s Facebook page or a certain number of graphfollowers on Twitter within a defined period of time. If your goals include customer service, you may include resolving a certain number of issues per month via social media. You can also set goals for positive versus negative mentions of your company or brand but beware that sentiment is an inexact science. Even the best monitoring tools can only approximate sentiment because they cannot account for human sarcasm or cynicism in text comments. Goals can also include clicks from Facebook, Twitter, etc. to a specific offer landing page but remember that wherever possible you do not want to disrupt the user’s social networking experience. Generally speaking, people are not engaging in social media to click on a bunch of links to corporate pages. You can however set up separate Twitter accounts and Facebook tabs just for offers and promotions or provide people with an opportunity to opt-in to receive emails or text messages for special offers.

Step 6 – Operationalize. Now comes the fun part – figuring out how to support your social media efforts on an ongoing basis. I underscored the last two words to emphasize the point that social media efforts do not have a hard start and stop date like a direct mail campaign or a print ad campaign. Once a comment or promotion begins, it takes on a life of its own and you need to be prepared to support the conversation until your audience tires of engaging on the subject. This is where most companies fail. They don’t understand that in the digital age, companies don’t really own their brand or the conversation with the consumer. The consumer owns them. As marketers, we now guide, nudge, polish and influence our brand and the conversation, but we no longer own it. This is what marketing 2.0 is all about – giving up control in return for an honest and open dialogue and partnership with your external customers, prospects and other important constituents. It’s no longer “push” marketing, it’s a partnership with your customers for the good of everyone involved. If you try to “control” your social media efforts as opposed to managing them, you will fail. It is important to manage the expectations of senior management on the topic or control versus transparency and partnership.

Back to the operations decisions that need to be addressed. The team must make decisions about when and where to begin. It is often best to start small, like starting a Twitter dialogue. This will help limit mistakes and also help with resourcing the effort. By the way, if you work for one of those companies that need to see a business case with a documented positive ROI on social media before investing in it, you have a huge uphill battle on your hands. That doesn’t mean that social media cant or doesn’t contribute to the bottom line, because it does. My point is you do not begin engaging in social media purely for the ROI. It’s an indirect outcome but not the initial objective of social media efforts.

Different departments will have different objectives. For example, customer service may be focused on servicing customers while marketing may be interested in raising brand awareness or raising positive sentiment. Public affairs may simply be interested in more positive mentions. Additionally, Twitter may be the best venue for customer service while marketing may prefer Facebook or YouTube. This doesn’t mean that departments or objectives should be limited to only one social media channel. I am simply suggesting that the team establish a preferred channel for each main objective.

The team will also need to address monitoring, establishing a policy or as I like to call it, “rules of engagement” which is about who in the company is allowed to engage in social media in an official capacity. Staffing and training will need to be discussed as will in-sourcing versus outsourcing, internal communications to employees and more.

Step 7 – Pilot. Once the team has made all key decisions and senior management has signed off with a full understanding of what to expect, it’s time to cross your fingers and soft-launch your social media efforts. Soft-launching means no major announcements in the media. This will give you a better chance of becoming confortable with whatever you are doing, before you announce it to the world and get more volume than you can handle. Also keep in mind that whatever you are doing, social media should provide at least the same if not a better experience than conventional channels. What I mean is that if your call centers for customer service are 24×7, then your social care efforts should be 24×7.

Of course there are many more details and considerations behind each step, but these 7 steps should serve as a good road map to plan your efforts.

Here are some additional tips.

–          Be honest, don’t “spin” the truth or you will lose credibility and your audience will discount your point-of-view in the conversation that is taking place. It really does not matter that you represent the company or brand, if you are not credible, you will be discounted.

–          Know when to just be quiet and listen

–          Identify key influencers and get to know them and understand their social media habits and behavior

I hope you found this article helpful. Please feel free to ask questions or leave comments and stay tuned for a follow-up article about Social Media Communities.

Author:  Steven Copertino

Copyright 2011. All Rights Reserved.

Will Google+ Rule the World?

Following is an article from Ad Age on Google+ and a link to a demo of  Google+.

 

Google+ image

 

 

 

 

 

 

It looks like Facebook is in for some real competition in the coming months. Google+ is in a closed friendly-user trial right now. They are gathering feedback and tweaking it, but soon it will be available to everyone and Google will know more about us  and our behaviors than anyone ever has.

How Google+ Will Transform Search and Search Marketing

What Search Giant’s Social Foray Means Behind the Scenes
By:            Ad Age               Published: July 21, 2011

Google+ is gaining users faster than any social network ever before. After many stumbles, Google has finally built a social network that delivers value to consumers. That makes Google+ a bigger competitor to Facebook than anything we’ve seen.

So far, a lot of Google+ coverage has debated its value, and examined the network from a consumer and tactical standpoint. Less scrutinized is the way the launch of Google+ could end up enhancing the competitive positioning and value of Google’s search business, giving it an unprecedented view of consumer interest, social graph, intent data and conversion data.

What you want vs. what you like
The biggest difference between Google and Facebook right now is that thanks to search intent data, Google knows what consumers want. Facebook, on the other hand, has a very clear understanding of what users like and who they know. Google+ is the first step for Google to close this gap. It aims to build out a complete profile of Google’s users, giving Google access to profile data, likes, interests, and friends.

Google+ integrates across all of Google’s products to make sharing easier and more relevant, but also to add value to Google search. If Google can incorporate data from the social graph to deliver more relevant results, it will have a product competitive with Bing’s Facebook integration . This is of critical importance in order for Google to maintain search market share and growth by improving relevancy and personalization of search results vs. the aggressive challenger Bing.

In my opinion, Google is interested primarily in building user profile data to deliver more relevant and personalized search results with better, more relevant advertising. Studying Google+ and collecting even more consumer data empowers the company to integrate its data for a better consumer experience and advertising across all their products, from search to social to mobile and even to email.

Engagement and ROI
One major issue with Google+ is the absence of brand and corporate pages. If Google wants to compete with Facebook, these pages are crucial. Facebook works as an advertising platform because it goes far beyond traditional display. Rather, it’s an engagement platform where brands and advertisers interact with consumers.

Adding brand pages to Google+ will finally give Google a branding engagement platform. Right now, Google’s big revenue business is search, which relies on clicks to measure ROI and advertising success, whereas Google+ can offer a branding platform where the campaign goal is engagement rather than immediate ROI.

Once brand pages are launched and populated, the next logical step is to build an ad platform that encourages engagement and incorporates the social graph. With this, brands can appeal to consumers by using interest data — the things consumers say they actually like — just as we see on Facebook. The difference is that Google can target ads based on consumer intent data, at a higher level of relevancy than is possible on Facebook. An engagement model based on social and search intent data will improve the efficiency and efficacy of social advertising, in terms of both relevancy and performance.

Keys to success
One thing lost in Google+’s rapid growth is the importance of user engagement and time spent. Success in social networking is not determined by total number of users. Twitter has tons of registered users, but a very small percentage is responsible for the majority of activity. Google+ must regularly engage consumers, or the content loses relevancy and thus its power as a branding tool. Without broad and regular participation, scale and frequency (and successful advertising) become impossible.

The key to Facebook’s success is not just the social interest and social graph data, but the tremendous amount of time users spend on the network. That time creates the advertising opportunities. The ultimate measure of success would be for Google+ to become the first social network consumers visit when they go online. It’s a similar obstacle in search, where Google owns 65 percent of the market, compared to Yahoo’s 15 percent. Being second place is far different from being the industry leader, and Google is already late to the social game.

Google+ has several other demerits, which is to be expected for a brand new product. The system doesn’t recognize corporate Gmail addresses, a fact that agitates against its “easy-to-use” premise, especially for corporate Gmail power users. Google is also pushing the limits of data and privacy, given its recent FTC investigation. Consumers should be concerned about giving too much personal, professional and social data to one entity, and Google is already collecting data on search queries, mining usage data across its networks, purchasing data from third parties, collecting conversion data from Google analytics, taking impression and click data from its Doubleclick ad-serving product. Thanks to Google+, it will soon also know what you do, who you are, and who you know. That’s frightening from a consumer standpoint, especially if Google+ becomes the top social network.

There’s also the chance that Google could stretch itself too thin. This moment is oddly reminiscent of the time that Yahoo tried to become a portal, a search engine, and everything at once. Ultimately it diluted its brand and its position in the industry. Social networking is Facebook’s core business, and it has a massive head start and loyalty from all the core demographics.

But we’ve seen Google topple web titans before, so Google+ unseating Facebook is not outside the realm of possibility. The biggest and most important aspect of Google+ is that Facebook is no longer the only channel on TV worth watching. Strong competition leads to innovation, and a Facebook/Google+ battle will lead to a better consumer social networking experience, as well as improved advertising results and options. Google+ has value, and we look forward to further developments, innovation and continued growth.

Google+ demo
http://www.google.com/+/learnmore/