Marketo Summit 2014: Focused on Insights, Engagement, Personalization and Content

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Last week, I attended Marketo’s Marketing Nation Summit 2014 annual conference along with 6,000 other marketers from around the world. The two-day event was superbly orchestrated to manage the massive crowds and I felt there was a good flow between events each day. There were several breakout sessions and panels that adequately addressed the numerous shifts in today’s marketing environment. From what I know to be true from a personal experience, and from what I learned at the conference, I walked away with three big trends impacting marketing:

1) We have access to better intelligence around target audiences and prospects and the ability to serve up customized content to improve the customer experience.

2) There’s more alignment and tighter interactions between functional groups including sales, marketing, web, HR and digital teams resulting in better outcomes.

3) Content marketing and customer engagement are now high priorities within marketing and support almost every activity (this is where social media plays a large role).

To help accelerate these marketing trends, there were some new Marketo features announced at the conference:

  • Real-time Personalization – A result of the Insightera acquisition last year, this bolt-on offering provides marketers the ability to serve dynamically-generated, multi-channel, personalized communications. The big value prop is that all of it can be done in real-time without IT or a dedicated CMS platform.
  • Marketo SEO Module – Integrated into the Marketo platform, this very intuitive product will help marketers understand how their webpages are faring based on strategic keywords and offers recommendations for better search engine placement. I’m excited because it will be complimentary for enterprise level users.
  • Marketo Marketing Calendar – This new offering got a lot of oohs and aahs at the unveiling proving what a nightmare it is for marketing teams to stay up-to-date on events and activities. The demo showed how changes could be made in the calendar that impact campaign settings within the Marketo platform.
Hillary Clinton and Beth Comstock, Keynote Speakers at #MKTGNATION14

Hillary Clinton and Beth Comstock, Keynote Speakers at #MKTGNATION14

Being a social media strategist, I chose breakout sessions that covered how social can be woven into an automated marketing program. I’m fairly new to the Marketo platform but from what I heard from presenters, it seems like an area still in its infancy even though some brands had good success. I’m quite certain that by next year’s conference, there will be much more to talk about and showcase.

The keynote speeches were by far my favorite part of the conference. Seeing Hillary Clinton share her candid thoughts on Internet freedom, the democratization of social media and the emerging age of enterprise innovation was worth the price of admission. Beth Comstock, CMO of GE, was also quite motivating as she spoke about how her company has managed to stay relevant after 122 years of business – mostly by being innovative. Both sessions definitely made me feel energized and eager to get back to work knowing that a “marketing nation” can, in fact, help change the world for the better.

 

Why Chromecast is the Best TV App in the House

chromecast-best-tv-appIt’s no surprise that the average living room has four remote control devices managing media and entertainment. That clutter is a mess and it also makes watching TV complicated. Anything to simplify that process is worth my attention and Google has done that with a very easy-to-use product called Chromecast. It’s the best TV app in my house right now and will only get better over time as new applications get developed for it. It gets two thumbs up from me for a number of reasons including price, it only cost $35. Here are five reasons why I think Chromecast is worth every penny.

  • Chromecast is small and unobtrusive. This little hardware device is the size of a thumbnail drive that plugs into the USB port on the computer. Instead, Chromecast plugs into the HDMI port on any smart TV. Unlike a bulky set-top box, it’s practically hidden from view. Set up is a bit challenging at first connecting to Wi-Fi and entering a passcode to activate the software, but it didn’t take me more than 15 minutes.
  • You can use your TV as a big computer monitor. Using my Chrome web browser, “casting” allows me to share photos, videos or whatever I have visible on the screen viewable on my TV. It’s almost like magic and I can’t believe it’s taken this long for a company to develop an easy way to connect your computer and TV.
  • Chromecast turns my phone and iPad into TV remote controls. This is my favorite way to use Chromecast because it’s built into video apps such as HBO Go, Netflix and YouTube. It’s my go-to TV remote these days because I can essentially perform on-demand TV viewing from my mobile devices and bypass the entire cable system interface, which is archaic and slow. TV remotes are on their way out and becoming extinct thanks to Chromecast.
  • Instant viewing without having to change the source on my TV. When I press the “play” button in an app or click the “cast” icon in my browser, content is sent to and displayed instantly on my TV. The HDMI source is activated within seconds even if I’m in a different TV source – it switches over immediately for viewing.
  • Vibrant HD wallpaper on my TV screen. The Chromecast desktop cycles through various images of gorgeous art and beautiful nature photography before and after playback. It’s a nice reminder that it’s “ready to cast.

If Chromecast continues to add new apps to more media channels and networks, I feel like cutting the (cable) cord would be much more possible for me. Until then, Chromecast definitely gives me better control of the TV interface and my viewing pleasure.

Executing a Social Media Exit Strategy

Photo courtesy of xomiele

It’s a fact of life. Everything comes to an end sooner or later. The same goes for social media campaigns and accounts. The trick is knowing when to pull the plug and move on to something bigger and better.

One of the biggest reasons to hit the delete button is to avoid a social media time suck that drains budget resources and doesn’t provide a healthy return on your investment. You also may find that the property has exceeded its shelf life and you’re not generating optimal levels of traffic and engagement anymore. Whatever the reason, you’re now faced with the decision of what to do.

Obviously, you’ll need to consider the platform carefully. Whether it’s a blog, community, microsite or social networking account, each will have its own factors to consider. But once you put an end to that social media fossil, chances are you’ll find more time and energy to focus on something new. The guilt and baggage from those dated social media accounts will free you to do more. So here are a few things to consider.


Dead Blogs and Communities Serve Up SEO Benefits

If you decide that it doesn’t make sense to sustain your blog, don’t delete it without careful consideration. Blogs, and online communities for that matter, are fantastic repositories of knowledge and opinion for readers seeking out specific content. Depending upon the subject matter, they could yield a wealth of information for many, many years. More than likely, your posts and the reader comments are attracting a fair amount of visitors on a regular basis. You may find that much of the content is still valuable and people are coming across it through their online searches and via your SEO efforts. Check your analytics to determine the level of traffic that’s still coming to the blog, as well as where your visitors are coming from (referral traffic) and the search terms they’re using to find your blog or community. This data could certainly help you shape future marketing strategies or even help you plan your next blog. Make sure you draft and publish a final post explaining the reason for the termination of the blog or online community and thank your readers/contributors for their participation. Don’t forget to include a link they can click to find your organization online, join an affiliate community or a recommended group on a social network like Facebook or LinkedIn.

 

Expired Campaign Microsites Leverage Inbound Links

Your company may have built an online destination with a very specific purpose in mind. These microsites are usually tied to a creative campaign to drive visibility around a product or service, promote an event, or may even have been used to hold a contest or sweepstakes of some kind. Even though the product has been discontinued, the event has passed or the contest has ended, you may still be attracting visitors from inbound links. Again, it’s about taking advantage of that web traffic (and your brand equity) so don’t cut off that funnel of interested visitors wanting to know more about your organization. Go ahead and tear down the site (make sure you archive your digital assets) but hang onto the domain URL (those are super inexpensive and worth the cost if it means generating an additional stream of traffic). Use a website redirect to your new campaign site, social media page or official web property to connect them with content that’s current. Of course, if you’re not generating traffic than it won’t make sense to keep the domain name.  Hit the delete button on the whole thing.

 

Unattended Social Media Accounts Aren’t Exactly Social

It’s disappointing to come across a business account on a social network that’s been abandoned or doesn’t respond to comments or customer inquiries. Of course, there could be several reasons for this such as budget cuts, inexperienced community managers or a poor social media strategy (brand conversation monitoring is required for all social media programs). Unlike blogs and online communities, social networks operate on a real-time basis. They are meant to provide ongoing dialogue and can become stale and out-of-date rather quickly. If that’s the case, an exit strategy is probably needed.

I wouldn’t recommend deleting brand name accounts on social networks. I’m talking about branded vanity URLs such as pinterest.com/KLMConsulting. While it’s common for businesses to quickly jump onto social networks to secure their brand names (before cyber squatters beat them), the accounts shouldn’t resemble a ghost town with tumble weeds either. If you’re not ready to activate the account, try to make it hidden (Facebook allows you to do that with pages and groups). If you can’t do that, why not post an initial message stating the obvious – “Thanks for visiting our page, we’ll be launching shortly so come back soon!” If it’s a mature page and you’ll only be gone temporarily, then state that in the last post you publish or in the profile. At the very least this sets the tone and shows your commitment to transparent communications. It also tells the visitor that there is some strategy being developed behind closed doors.

Research from Burson-Marsteller cited that the average number of social media accounts is 33 per company. If you have secondary pages that aren’t performing or you simply can’t sustain or maintain the dialogue, then you may want to consider deleting those. Frankly, they could be doing you more harm than good. Most likely, these will be social media accounts that aren’t imperative to your business and do not contain your brand name in the vanity URL. If that’s the case, you’ll want to send a message to your fans or subscribers letting them know the end is near. Just do so with caution since social media accounts cannot be undeleted.

 

The Art of Social Image Curation and Visual Linking

Photo courtesy of Vermin Inc

It seems like everyone is jumping on the Pinterest bandwagon these days and creating boards of their favorite images. I have to admit, I too, have found it quite pleasurable to browse the hundreds of pictures that range from cool products to delicious food to interesting architecture.

During my time on the site I’ve noticed that Pinterest is creating a new type of online sharer, the social image curator. This activity goes way beyond normal photo sharing that’s done on Flickr or Facebook. Users are connecting with images to self-identify with their needs, wants and desires. And it’s interesting to see how people are approaching this new art form by the items they “pin” and the boards they create. It’s important for marketers to understand this trend and learn from it in order to create and display images that users want to pin and share.

Visual Bookmarking and Storytelling

The truth is Pinterest gives users a care-free way of categorizing content on their terms. It’s such an effortless process without the labor of the creating a series of tags.  Frankly, it’s the modern equivalent of online bookmarking. It’s no wonder that bookmarking tools such as Delicious, PearlTrees and others have developed sophisticated visual interfaces for their platforms. Finding and consuming information is much easier and quicker when it’s in a visual format.

Let’s not forget the current fascination with data visualization, a.k.a. infographics. Those creative illustrations combine information with compelling graphics (hence the name) to create perfect vehicles for storytelling. The popularity of them has many companies clamoring to produce their own infographics that convey authority or tell a story associated with their business. It’s no surprise that infographics have made their way to Pinterest as well with users collecting them like baseball cards.

Developing a Visual Content Strategy

While users are busy searching for images that resonate with them, marketers are looking for ways to attract those users and integrate this activity into their outbound efforts.  Professionals in marketing, PR and social media functions not only need to quickly learn how to curate images for business-branded accounts, they need to think about content marketing in the visual sense. That means developing a visual strategy for blog posts, white papers, research insights, and other collateral produced for external consumption.

The challenge for many marketers will be how to represent text and numbers into compelling visual references. If your organization has a dedicated graphics designer on staff then you should leverage them to full tilt. If not, you should consider subscribing to an image database such as Getty Images where you can select and purchase images that suit your brand and content. I’d also recommend Flickr for its large inventory of images labeled under the Creative Commons license.

Visual Content Drives Traffic

The visual display model that Pinterest has built is actually an enormous driver of website traffic. It was reported by Techcrunch that Pinterest now drives more referral traffic than Twitter, according to recent research from Shareaholic. With a growing number of people being conditioned to click on images for more information, it’s an opportunity for marketers to take note.

This is quite the eye-opener since most images we create and post online do not have links embedded in them. Start inserting URLs into your images to seamlessly create digital pathways to destination sites. In doing so, you may boost your SEO rankings in the process on sites that follow directives for links. (Note: Pinterest has implemented a “no follow” rule on their site.) While the majority of images on many sites represent consumer goods, there’s also plenty of opportunity to drive interested buyers of B2B services through imagery as well.

 

Hashtag Marketing on the Rise

Photo courtesy of DoubleGrande

Last week as I was organizing my Twitter account I decided to re-evaluate the search terms I was using to find interesting content. This led me to take a closer look at hashtags and their latest use by marketers for business purposes.

As many know, the use of the pound sign (#) is at the crux of the hashtag. Putting symbols in front of words for taxonomy purposes isn’t a new concept. The @ sign has been at the center of email universe for decades now. Not surprising, it’s also used to address someone on Twitter.

However, the Twitter hashtag is more than a simple way to categorize content, identify themes or track real-time conversations. They’re increasingly being used by companies to drive positive online conversation and build brand recognition and loyalty.

Hashtags Driving the Popularity of SocialTV
Television networks have been quick to leverage the power of the hashtag by displaying it in the bottom corner of the screen during a broadcast. Usually it’s the name of the program or TV show such as #Revenge, #TopChef or #PanAm. I noticed that LifeTime’s Project Runway gives each contestant their own hashtag for voting purposes, which is a fantastic idea and also provides more ways for fans to tweet about the show. Expect to see more creative uses of the hashtag by entertainment companies and TV networks in the near future.

Hashtags as Branding Vehicles for Companies
Many marketers are starting to use hashtags as branding vehicles for campaign awareness. A good example is Audi that recently promoted their new LED headlights with the hashtag #solongvampires. The unique hashtag was connected to a TV ad that showed the headlights destroying vampires because of their extreme brightness (part of the product message). The result was a memorable campaign with excellent integration between multiple mediums.

While hashtags can drive massive attention for a branded campaign, some companies are going even farther by using them organically to convey value proposition. Red Bull’s tagline, “It Gives You Wings,” has been parlayed into the #givesyouwings hashtag and is quite popular with consumers when discussing the brand on Twitter and referencing other activities synonymous with the tagline.

The Perils of Hashtag Hijacking
Just like any other communications tactic, careful consideration needs to be given to hashtags. Unfortunately, McDonald’s learned this the hard way when it decided to offer up stories on the healthy aspects of its food using the hashtag #mcdstories. Within hours of the first tweet, consumers hijacked the hashtag and posted negative stories damaging the McDonald’s brand. What started out as a solid communications platform for the burger chain quickly turned into a PR nightmare. (Read: When a Hashtag Becomes a Bashtag on Forbes)

Marketers need to think about how hashtags can be integrated into broader media campaigns without losing control of the narrative. This is especially important since hashtags are now moving beyond Twitter and into other media channels. We’ve only witnessed a glimpse of their true potential and the real opportunities that they can bring for brands and the marketers that use them.

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