Future Online Ads Will Have Feelings

Very soon, online advertising will shift tactics from passively jumping in front of your face on different sized displays to more engaged and aggressive interactions all over space. Ads will smell, pinch and sting. They will twist your arm and force you to pay or threat you to deal with consequences if you go for the competition.

Wearable technology and advances in technical interfaces, simulations and virtual reality may look cool to geeky consumers, but they are also perfect tools for marketing agencies waiting, patiently, to prey on those fully excited, technically addicted poor victims. Not only your smart mobile, wrist band or watch and your Google glasses, but your car, TV, refrigerator and any other appliance you may think of will be equally qualified to mount a ruthless marketing attack at your very weak defenses. Worse still, would be internal collaboration secured by earlier rounds of information gathering and psychological preparations.

Production technology and infrastructure for the new generation of advertising and marketing in general are almost ready, even outside research labs. There is probably still some juice left to squeeze out of traditional online marketing and advertising tools and channels. Despite their widely proven failure, they are used for lack of other creative ways as well as ignorance and widespread lies – politely referred to as statistics – about positive ROI from online ads.

After examining a year of Google AdSense performance, I can say with confidence that the organic click through rate (CTR) is between 4 and 5% which is close to the widely reported average. There is no way to find out how many of these are serious or did so on purpose and with full awareness (ads are usually concealed and placed to flow well with content). Ad networks, of course, charge for impressions as well, so if your ads are not clicked, you are charged for views (this applies to social media outlets as well). Add to this the ad fraud (bots generating hits and even submitting forms, competition burning your ads budget and ad clicking farms) and you can easily see how flawed the current online advertising scheme is.

Online advertising is also dumb. Why would you see a Facebook ad if you are already logged in? How many times you should see the same ad over a certain period of time? How can you predict what a user is up to and serve them relevant ads? Are ads relevant to current content (if served correctly) the right ones? What about ads based on demographics and how do you verify the data? How do you deal with ad blocking tools? Why would you pay for auto-reloads? Only a better thought out strategy and approach will solve this issue. For now, changes in tactics and channels are the only available options.

Large corporations have been eying future adverts and laying infrastructure and manufacturing devices to support their plans. From gizmos to smart devices and apps with massive collection of all kinds of data and remote control options (spelled features) like switching your cam or mic, the ground is now ready. Future ads may not even be channeled through your browser or your apps (those will collect data), but the operating system running your device may step in. Do not be surprised if the next Windows will be free as long as it runs Bing and serves ads – at least for the end user, not the typical company. What about Internet access? You guessed it! Basic services will run on ads infrastructure, the rest will be other features and it is just around the corner! Are you ready for the party? What will be your sacrifice?

Posted in Advertising, Facebook, Facebook Advertising, Marketing, Social Media | Comments Off

Big Data: Few Cash Cows and Many White Elephants

Unless you have been living in a dark cave or deep inside a rain forest, the term Big Data should be familiar. Some business executives even use it as a prestigious status “we deal with Big Data” as if it is an indicator to the size and wealth of their business. Consultants, on the other hand, like to promote data collection and analytics: data is the solution! Is it? Data is also the problem.BigData

What is Big Data? It is just a buzzword for the good old data that has outgrown the processing, storage, acquisition and transportation capacity of existing systems. A business that used to deal with few thousand rows in Excel may see Big Data in data sets exceeding few hundred millions of records. Databases that are several terabytes in size are Big Data to most enterprises today but may not be so in the next few years.

Big Data comprises both structured and unstructured, or loosely structured, data and may reside in files as text format. The volume, speed of generation and variety of Big Data pause great challenges to business enterprises but hide promising potentials at the same time.

Influenced by business trends and fierce marketing, fueled by competition and assisted by the relatively low cost of data acquisition and storage, businesses tend to collect all sorts of data thinking that super powerful business intelligence and analytics tools will be able to extract gold from these piles of data ores. Unfortunately, most businesses find very low ROI in such endeavors and many get trapped deep inside their data mines and spend even more on rescue operations.

Unless one is very naive to get sold on intelligent systems that can extract knowledge and derive business insights from piles of raw data, the journey from data acquisition to actionable knowledge is paved with hard work, hard earned money, well defined processes, true leadership, system design and implementation. There is no one size fits all recipe for data collection, processing and analytics. Failing to realize this, for lack of knowledge or lack of other options, is one of the root causes of Big Data projects going south.

Collecting more (or less) data than your business need may turn your Big Data project into a total loss – either due to additional transportation, processing and storage power required or lack of context data to use in analytics and mining models. For example, a large store selling food items may never need to know the color of customers’ cars (unless contracted by an automobile industry) and a car dealership need not collect data on customers’ eating habits. Collecting more data increases maintenance and processing overhead, so more is not always better.

To be able to calculate the ROI for a Big Data project, you need to establish goals and metrics first. Measurements and indicators are equally important. Data is not an end itself; it’s a means for deriving business insights, improving processes, achieving better customer service, increasing efficiency and improving your competitive edge. You have to strike a balance in data collection and retention – data management and maintenance is inevitable and it does carry a considerable price label. There are also rules and regulations to be observed and these may change across geographical regions, including user privacy. A good ROI is not necessarily financial; flight data and health data may improve safety and well being which are equally valuable.

If a data model is invalid or data is inaccurate or incomplete, analytics tools will not be able to turn mess into good insights and Big Data will backfire. Logistics is probably a good example. According to Trax Technologies, 30% of the invoices are problematic leading to major errors and losses in settlements. In some industries, knowledge should be available in real time and even the best and most comprehensive data will be useless if those nice dashboards take ages to render at which times decisive decisions have been taken or disasters are too late to prevent.

Today, Big Data is available as a commodity either from social media platforms through open APIs or just for sale by data providers, usually with low quality. Many entrepreneurs are trying to derive added value from such data to sell later as market studies, mostly predicting the future. They can make some money if they manage to sell their reports but their profits are considered Big Data losses for those who buy them – future prediction is not that simple and source data is usually dirty and not totally authentic leading to misinformed decision making.

As a business, if you are not making the best out of small data – the core operational data for your business, you are likely to rock the Big Data boat. Your actual customer feedback is more important than online surveys and ratings, and randomly inspecting your QA line is usually more accurate than data mining social media comments. Small data has higher ROI rates for most businesses.

This is not saying that Big Data is irrelevant or unprofitable. However, many Big Data projects end up as white elephants and not cash cows. With Big Data comes a long laundry list of data governance that could either produce a cash stream or end up as a data tsunami.

Posted in Big Data, Business Intelligence | Comments Off

Focus Less On Social Media, More On Your Website

Let’s face it! As a business, do you know who your customers are and where they hang on online? (Hint: Social media is no longer a valid answer). Social media is like transportation hubs with plenty of busy people seeking different destinations (or wasting time and keeping company).

From the late MySpace to the current list of competing young and aging social platforms (and the new kids on the block), your potential customers are deserting one platform to the other leaving your investment on marketing and advertising to the wind. There are no solid metrics and no easy way to measure your return on investment in social advertising. Budget allocation is driven by fear of competition and inability to comprehend and keep up with changing advertising dynamics among social media outlets, not to mention the pressure of the new industry that revolves around social media marketing like agencies, analytics firms and so on.

Attracted by the economy of scale and ease of use, social media has become a popular and easy target for scams and privacy threats. Your advertising budget may be burned in seconds on fake profiles, click farms or even bots pretending to click your links or fill your forms. Just look around and you will see fans, followers, likes and views being sold online as if it is another stock market. You are not only losing your money, but your website is sitting there collecting dust.

Granted that social media is not going to disappear anytime soon, there is no doubt it is losing efficiency to say the least. Your Facebook post is not reaching your fans (unless you pay or convince fans to interact). With hundreds of liked pages and accounts to follow (ex. Twitter), you can be sure your organic or paid presence does not capture much attention and may even be filtered out. And let’s admit it – social media is becoming less social and more commercial – after all, they now have investors and stakeholders to please with nice looking balance sheets.

So, should you just ignore your presence on social platforms? Not yet. However, you should optimize based on resources and target audience. Post a picture on Facebook, upload a video on YouTube or tweet your next activity, but don’t spend much there. The alternative? Your website (and blog) and traditional media coverage – unless and until a worthy innovation is out.

Your website is your official identity online. Keep it up to date and promote it. Make is SEO and user friendly for different screen sizes. Enrich it with relevant and new content. Attract visitors but do not pull their legs or push content down their throats. Be an attractive flower and be sure that bees and butterflies will discover you and enjoy the visit.

Posted in Facebook, Social Media | Comments Off