Facebook agrees: Quality > Quantity

It’s as if Facebook listened to a focus group of marketers complaining about ad targeting: “It’s getting brutal….social makes it harder, not easier….my dollars are already stretched too thin….how can I be sure I’m reaching the right people….and how do I know I’m spending in the right places?”

And then, Facebook looked deeply into its immeasurable well of data and said, “Welcome to lookalike audiences.”

What it is

A lookalike audience is a custom-made audience based on the characteristics of your current customer list, website visitorship, or Facebook fan base. The idea is that Facebook goes further than general demographics and interests, and looks at data to find deeper similarities within your audiences. You are then able to target new customers that fit into a precise profile.

3 data sets

When Facebook creates a lookalike audience it gathers data from 3 sources.

1) Your Facebook page fans: Facebook takes the individuals that already like your page and looks for similarities among them.

2) Your current customer list: By using Facebook Custom Audiences, you can upload a csv file or copy and paste your existing customer data and Facebook will find people who resemble that audience.

3) Your website visitors: Install a Facebook pixel on your site. Then you can create an audience based on people who’ve visited specific pages on your website.

Does it work?

Studies show that lookalike audiences can generate at least twice the number of customer conversions than standard targeting techniques, simple because the people you’re targeting share characteristics with users who have already interacted with your brand in some way.

This technique can be even more effective than retargeting. Why? Because rather than simply delivering ads to people who already know your brand, lookalike targeting builds a new customer base; essentially a clean sheet of paper that can be filled with new individuals, perceptions, and new selling opportunities.

Let’s talk dollars

Where budget is concerned, using a lookalike audience is very cost effective. This is because lookalike targeting does not increase the cost of delivering your ads. It just increases the likelihood of the ad content making an impact.

Think of it this way: Instead of delivering your ads to 50,000 people who may or may not be interested in your brand/product, you’re delivering your ad to 15,000 people who share similarities with your current audience and are very likely to be interested. This results in higher ROI.

Stay attuned

There are other advertising platforms that provide similar tools. For example, Google has targeting methods such as Custom Affinity Audiences and Customer Match that allow similar targeting based on your current customer data. It will be interesting to see how Google and other competitors respond to the advent of lookalike audiences.

But for now, Facebook lookalike targeting is one of the most valuable tools available. And it may signal the long-overdue shift in advertisers’ understanding that quality beats quantity.

Join us for a beverage to keep the conversation going.

Progressive web apps now being served

Progressive Web Apps

When Google says something is the next big thing, we tend to listen.

And Progressive Web Apps (or PWAs) are, in a word, it.

If you missed this news and were absent the day they had the PWA meeting at work, here’s what you should know.

The nutshell version.

PWAs can be summed up as a web page that can be hot-linked to the homescreen of the user’s phone, creating an app-like experience. Some recent technology enhancements and the increased power of newer smartphones and devices make it possible.

In slightly more technical terms, think of a PWA as a hybrid utility – a mix between a website and a native application on a mobile device.

Thirsty for an example? Here’s an example of a simple PWA that allows users to learn more about beer. Cheers.

Top 10 reasons they’re a good thing

Google (and us for that matter) like PWAs for these reasons.

  1. PWAs are fast to load
  2. They feel like an app
  3. They don’t require an app store to install
  4. They build search engine visibility
  5. They’re responsive
  6. They work with all browsers
  7. PWAs are linkable and not be hard to install
  8. They’re enhanced to work offline or on low-quality networks
  9. They stay fresh because of a background update function
  10. PWAs are safe and served via HTTPS

If you need a laundry list of PWA attributes, look at this detailed look at what Google says are the key elements of a good PWA.

How PWAs keep users engaged.

Studies have shown that in a consumer mobile app, you lose around 20% of the user base for every step a user has to perform before getting to valuable content or experiences.

It’s called the “funnel effect.” And it has huge implications. For example, what if the user has to do any of the following?

  1. Go to the app store
  2. Download the app
  3. Open App
  4. Sign up for the app
  5. Create something
  6. Post/Send to friends
  7. Overcome any other typical experiential roadblock

If each of these steps causes a 20% drop in users, the attrition rate is ridiculous. With PWAs, the first three steps are bypassed, allowing users to find value quicker and stay engaged longer.

Loading & Pushing.

People expect a site to load in 2.0 seconds or less, according to study. After 3.0 seconds, many are gone. Now think of a phone on 3G trying to load the heavy elements of a website. The words “clunky,” “glacial,” and “stultifying” come to mind. PWAs, by contrast, load quickly even in areas with poor connectivity.

Another great PWA feature is the ability to send Push Notifications to users who have added the PWA to their phone. Push notifications can increase CTR by up to 40%.

And now, for PWA drawbacks…

Since Google began leading the push for PWAs in 2015, development has been slow.

Cutting edge browser technologies are needed for a PWA to function correctly. Sure, the PWA most likely will still work on older devices and browsers, but the UX won’t be the same.

Apple is developing the required pieces for PWAs to function 100% correctly on iPhones and other iOS products. And because PWAs function similar to a normal website, a user on an iPhone can still reap the benefits of the PWA, even if they are unable to add it directly to their homepage.

Source links:

[1] https://www.smashingmagazine.com/2016/08/a-beginners-guide-to-progressive-web-apps/
[2] https://developers.google.com/web/fundamentals/getting-started/codelabs/your-first-pwapp/
[3] http://blog.gaborcselle.com/2012/10/every-step-costs-you-20-of-users.html
[4] https://blog.kissmetrics.com/speed-is-a-killer/
[5] http://andrewchen.co/new-data-on-push-notification-ctrs-shows-the-best-apps-perform-4x-better-than-the-worst-heres-why-guest-post/
[6] https://jakearchibald.github.io/isserviceworkerready/

Academic Rigor Mortis: Breathing new life into school brands

dcblog-academicrigor

Thinking outside the backpack on “academic rigor”

Schools have long been in a Greco-Roman wrestling match with the question of how to present academic rigor in their particular brand of education to the world.

Cruise the websites of public or private learning institutions and you’ll see the term everywhere. Depending on the source, academic rigor can mean more homework, more testing, making students suffer, new levels of behavioral strictness, serious intellectual challenges, or a single standard for all.

Here’ some basic background on the issue – and 6 ways to escape the cul de sac of academic rigor and reach for something deeper and more honest about your institutional identity.

 

How the problem began

In the 1980s, “Liberal arts” and “Education” became synonymous with (take your pick): Softness, laxness, failure to contribute to the workforce or the economy, or a lack of accountability. Or making tests too easy. Or all of the above.

Many experts agree it started with the 1983 report called “Nation at Risk,” which positioned US education as “enmeshed in mediocrity.”

The report linked education to economic performance for perhaps the first time. It also directly compared American educational performance with international competitors.

In sum, Nation at Risk laid societal and economic failures on Education’s doorstep and – wait for it – signaled the advent of heavy reliance on external testing. This set the table for No Child Left Behind.

 

The Academic Rigor bandwagon

In 2006, 10 governors called for greater “rigor” in their schools.

In 2009, 5 states mandated “rigorous” algebra, geometry, and lab science – with zero definition of the term.

Then, as recently as 2015, 17 states piled on, demanding more “rigor” in their curricula. Everybody used the term, but no one defined it.

Academic seriousness needs to be seen, not heard. And in our view, the key is to use content that creates more transparency between the institution and the target, whether it’s a student, parent, faculty member, donor, or alum.

 

6 ways to jump off the bandwagon – and into the truth

 

1. Create a jargon-free zone around Admissions and Marketing

Use of jargon is antithetical to differentiation. To carve out a clear positioning, schools must develop their own vocabulary in language and images. So commit to getting rid of: “Academic rigor,” “21st Century Skills,” “Content knowledge,” and any other jargon that’s laying around.

2. Define your academic practices in detail

Creating an academic brand that articulates serious purpose (like any branding initiative) has to be based in truth. So put some energy into crafting a true understanding of how your teachers teach. Define some standards. Pinpoint examples of classes where students really have to work to advance. Build stories around individual achievement.

 

3. Show it, don’t tell it.

Make learning a visual story. Make the website an image-rich, video-front-and-center experience.

Use less institutional copy trying to own and define academic rigor and use more imagery, interviews, information graphics, and concrete examples of learning. Author original articles and white papers, and post them to your site. A web environment that has in-depth content reflects a school brand that is smart and serious.

 

4. Let the students speak.

They are your most compelling spokespeople, and they hold a potentially valuable key in unlocking the truth of your brand.

Listen to unscripted students talk about their school in this video we recently produced for the Ethel Walker School.

5. Let the faculty speak.

In truth, the only thing more compelling than a truly engaged student talking about learning is a truly engaged faculty member talking about teaching. Find a nucleus of your best teachers and leverage content from them for interviews, videos, and blog entries. Their words will define “rigor” better than anybody.

6. Seek what’s unique.

One academic client of ours has a really strong tutoring program.

The problem:  they called it a Tutoring Program.

By redefining tutoring as Academic Mentorship, they made it about personal coaching and individual achievement instead of needing remedial help.

 

Okay, we admit that academic rigor is a big topic, and way too big for a blog.

So contact us to continue the conversation over a beverage.

WHAT SCHOOL DO YOU DRIVE?

dcblog-schooldrive

Price, performance, and perception.

In our experience, those are the 3 criteria on which learning institutions are evaluated – by students, parents, consultants, counselors, and, well, everyone.

To take our hypothesis out for a spin to see how it corners, we asked two panels of 12 undergrads – all majoring in Advertising and PR – to evaluate a set of universities using car types and the perceptions that surround them. For a kicker, we also asked if there is a celebrity they might associate with the school.

dc-collegecars-bu

 

dc-collegecars-trinity

 

dc-collegecars-uconn

 

dc-collegecars-nyu

 

dc-collegecars-hart

 

dc-collegecars-duke

Eyeflow: How do people scan your site?

dcblog-eyeflowIt takes 1/5 of a second for someone to form an impression of your site

 

In another 2.6 seconds, they will have located the content that interests them.

 

In that time span of 2.8 seconds the user has scanned the page, made some judgments, and is ready to move deeper into your site.

 

Or move on in search of a better site.

 

Our point: Every aspect of content placement on a home page or landing page has to be scrutinized because even the smallest decisions can affect performance.

 

So let’s take a look at exactly what’s happening in those 2.8 seconds and talk about a few of the essentials of eyeflow.

 

1. Scanning vs Reading

 

Scanning a page – as opposed to reading it – is how people seek content. Jakob Nielsen pointed out many years ago why we scan rather than read but the dominant reason is twofold: Time pressures, and the fact that reading a computer screen is tiring to the eyes.

 

When scanning, the eye generally makes short, rapid eye movements as it moves across a web page, seeking the touchstones and visual cues that signal the content environment is relevant and useful.

 

2. From Gutenberg’s “Z” to Nielsen’s “F”

 

Gutenberg’s diagram is the basis for how we are taught to enter a web page visually.

 

Our eye tends to move in a “Z” shaped pattern, starting in the upper left corner – because that’s how we read – and moving right, left, and right. [This explains why, in print advertising, the logo is often positioned lower right.]

 

But our exposure to the web – and especially to search pages – has reshaped our eyeflow into the form of an “F.”

 

As you’d expect from the shape of the “F,” – as opposed to a “Z” – the eye tends to look across the screen twice and then stop, rather than completing the scan in the lower right corner.

 

Nielsen pointed this out in 2006 – viewers often start in the upper left corner and go right. Then they come back and follow a second movement, also left to right. Then they return to the left side and scan vertically.

 

Side point: Viewer eyeflow can change based on needs. General browsing eye patterns are slower, and more random than information-seeking patterns, which tend to be quicker and centered on navigation. Search page eyeflow tends to have a “hot potato” effect. If you’re redesigning a site, usability testing can provide clarity around how your content is being scanned..

 

3. Type hierarchy matters. Big Time.

 

Viewers look for and read headlines as an instinctive process for locating the main message of a page.

 

Subheads tend to be scanned as viewers go deeper into subpages, looking for relevant content – so don’t write meaningless subheads. Make sure each subhead actually encapsulates the written content below it. This builds reader trust. And keep your fonts simple and consistent so readers begin to feel confident in the aesthetics and standards of the site.

 

4. White space

 

Clients tend to overfill web pages, forgetting that unoccupied space creates a sense of calmness, focus, and makes reading and visual digestion easier.

 

We advise clients to think of white space not just in terms of large areas, but also in terms of column spacing, leaving room around graphics, and even in terms of paragraph length. Short, one and two-sentence paragraphs surrounded by white space accelerate the read and make viewers feel they are getting somewhere.

 

The elements of commanding attention and directing viewers’ eyeballs to where they need to go is a big topic.

 

Too big, in fact, for a blog.

 

But if you want to get into it deeper, we suggest you stop by for a beverage.

Let the students speak: How schools can crowd source their brand

Academic brands: Stuck in Sloganville

Academic brand messages usually take one of a few approaches.

One is a recitation of institutional values – “Courage. Honor. Confidence. Conviction. Integrity.” Sometimes they’re accompanied by a motto that’s marinated in Latin.

Snore.

The other method is to concoct a single slogan, either rooted in research, or cooked up by an agency, or both.

Again, snore.

Waking up to a new way of looking at academic branding

We believe – based on working with a lot of clients in education  – that institutional brandmessages need to yield to the voices of the people who own the brand: The students.

It’s not new thinking but it’s the right thinking. The students are the strongest spokespersons.

Why? Because they have authenticity.

This is the quality so many brands seek to capture, but too often they insist on fabricating it through slogans rather than unlocking it from within.

How to leverage the branding power of students

Feature them in video. Use student interviews as the basis of any video-based marketing initiative. DO NOT use a voiceover, as tempting as that may be. Students (and often parents) learn about schools primarily through video, and they know marketing content when they see it. So avoid pitching with a VO.

Open social channels and keep them open. Students have mixed reactions to engaging with their school via social media. In high school, they’re not inclined to engage with their school because it’s viewed as an authoritarian presence. In college, it’s different. Our advice: Be selective and choose the SM outlets where your targets congregate. Tumblr may be better for teenagers, Facebook for parents, and LinkedIn for alumni.

Let them author content. It takes some nerve to hand over the reins of marketing to students, no doubt. But the right student blogger, for example, can make a difference. So can student-produced video. Just make sure you’re choosing the ones who have the skills and will tell a good story.

If your school’s brand is still in Sloganville, contact us for a conversation.

4 NEW RULES FOR SEO

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It All Comes Down to Content

You’ve heard it ad nauseam, but today, when it comes to being the highest ranked on a search engine result page, content really is king.

With Google’s new SEO algorithm introduced in Google Panda content is being scrutinized as never before.

Panda evaluates UX in its analysis of site content. So it’s not just the range of content your site features, it’s the quality. That means a lot of site managers need to rethink their content strategy.

The rules have changed. And now, SEO thinking has to change, too. Here’s a guide to 4 critical new rules of SEO as seen by the folks here at drinkcaffeine.

The “Best of the Best” Rule

To maintain basic competitive positioning in search hierarchy, your site content must be as good as the best results on any particular search page. If you can’t consistently maintain this standard against the keywords used to explore your category, the hard truth is you do not have the opportunity to rank.

Search is becoming a mature category. Lots of sites have good, unique content. But it’s not enough to get to the top. You should aim to be the absolute best and then some.

If you don’t think you have the content to fulfill the keywords that drive your site traffic and your industry, then go back to the drawing board and review what it will take to bring your content to the next level.

The Right Links

 In the new world of Panda, links matter. Panda will discern between links that are authoritative and ones that are not.

Google, again valuing the best user experience, favors sites that are organically linked to by users. In fact, if you’re not earning links organically, you may even be earning undesirable links that Google is penalizing you for by lowering your Search Engine Results Page (SERP) ranking.

It’s an uphill battle to earn links with anything less than the best content, but there’s a reason why getting to the top of the hill is worthwhile. And users are already beginning to notice that top-ranked players on any given SERP have the goods.

Think mobile

User experience more than ever relies on mobile-friendly sites, pages that load instantly, and device rendering. Don’t forget this aspect of UX as you develop your site. Panda certainly hasn’t.

So how do you become the best?

The shifts in Google’s algorithm require us all to look in the mirror and examine content more critically than ever before. Here are some critical questions.

  • Do my pages answer specific questions or call outs that a user may be searching for? A user problem-solution model is a powerful way to earn user trust, and links.
  • What’s my site like from a UX perspective? Are pages loading quickly? Is the navigation really intuitive and based on what users want?
  • Where is my content being sourced from? Content that pulls from trusted, branded sources will be far superior to the content that has no anchor to solid data.
  • Am I communicating visually? As we mentioned, people want their information delivered quickly and efficiently. Tidbits of text information will seldom surpass the power of an infographic or graph.
  • What am I missing? What are the top SERP leaders missing that you can provide? This is how you’ll set yourself apart.

When it comes to building out your best content, we’re your search engine optimizers. Search drinkcaffeine for your best result.

 

 

Our Top 5 reasons why timesheets suck harder than an airplane toilet

dcblog-timesheetdilemma

Anyone in professional services knows the issue.

Timesheets, to put it as delicately as possible, suck. Show us someone who likes timesheets and we’ll show you an anal-retentive, neo-maxi zoom dweebie.

The many sucky aspects of timesheets

1. They suck creativity out of the brain. Timesheets are the ultimate buzzkill. They are to creativity what kryptonite is to Superman: a life-denying, soul-shattering, anti-matter experience that leaves a trail of scorched cerebral earth in its path.

2. They suck away time that could be spent on YouTube. One of our employees claims that he can’t work past 3:30 without going on YouTube to watch a baseball manager get thrown out of a game. Timesheets seriously cut into his Watch-a-Grown-Man-Have-A-Hissyfit time. Argue with that.

3. They suck the life out of my Kwan.

As Rod Tidwell said in Jerry McGuire, you gotta have the Kwan. Timesheets are a total Kwan-killer.

4. They suck because all forms suck. Misery comes in many forms. Most are either IRS forms or timesheets.

5. They suck because they make people go shoplifting in convenience stores. Unproven fact: Timesheets are known to cause people to shoplift at their local Gas n Sip, resulting in excess consumption of turkey jerky.

AND why we do them anyhow

  1. They help us understand process. If we’re way over budget or behind schedule, we can look at how we got there.
  2. They help manage workflow. Some tasks take longer than others. Some people work faster than others. Timesheets tell us about ourselves and how we can organize our efforts better.
  3. It’s just good business. We talk about metrics and how they can tell whether something is worth the investment. Timesheets are a metric for telling us if we’re performing at a strong level, fro clients and for ourselves.

Chime in. Let us know your true feelings about timesheets.

SEO for CMOs: What you need to know

dcblog-seotoday

Is your brand getting buried alive on search?

When was the last time you clicked through to the second or (gasp) third page of Google in search of a listing for your company’s content? It’s a terrible feeling, as if your content is getting buried alive. It’s important for companies to keep an eye on their rankings for branded, non-branded, and industry terms – and understand how SEO is changing.

Keeping pace with search sophistication.

When search engines were first being used, there was less content Out There. The internet was simpler. A website would only use page titles, meta-descriptions and alt attributes to describe the content that was on a given page.

But search got smarter, and algorithms started discerning which sources of information were better than others. For example, Googlebot – the web crawler that looks for new and updated pages – started assigning more importance to content based on the credibility of the source.

SEO Evolution Timeline

Algorithms: Taking a deeper dive

As search engines got better at patrolling the web, they started looking at factors like inbound/outbound linking, anchor text, domain names and registration information. Then algorithms focused on domain authority (which relies heavily on other sites linking back to yours) and diversity of the external link sources. Linking between two or three sites wasn’t enough anymore.

The most recent and advanced algorithm turn the internet into a popularity contest. Social mentions are important, especially those from (wait for it) Google+. And there is a strong focus on user behavior: Once a visitor hits your site, are they easily finding what they are looking for?

Google wants to ensure content legitimacy, which is all good. Having a physical business location, contact page, and better user interaction are good criteria for search hierarchy. But to win at the game you have to know the rules of the road.

Content is still king.

Content has withstood the test of time admirably. There’s no substitute for having good, useful, usable content.

Keyword stuffing, duplicated content, invisible text, and other black hat tricks have been used to elevate search visibility, but unethical or illegal measures to rank your site higher on Google will most likely result in penalties such as lower rankings or being banned from the index. Our advice: make really good content experiences the centerpiece of your SEO strategy – and stay alert for new SEO advancements.

If you’d like an SEO update, feel free to contact us.

With trending topics, tread carefully

dcblog-nowtrending

The need to show relevance – and restraint

Social marketing strategy is about staying relevant. We advise clients to add their voice and content to hot topics – when it’s appropriate. Sounds obvious, yes?

But look around and you can see big brands that comment on every trending topic out there. Sure, it’s nice to make it to the top of Twitter timelines and be seen by more potential followers, but it requires diligence and discretion – attributes that easily get lost in the chase to keep up with real time trends.

How DiGiorno pizza got burned

DiGiorno Pizza is one of the biggest players in the twittersphere, with a witty, responsive, and relevant presence (as a rule). They have a smart-alecky, wise-guy voice and they tweet non-stop and comment on trending topics. In addition to sports games and awards show commentary, they even live-tweeted the Sound of Music.

But the practice of diving into as many trending topics as possible recently backfired on the DiGiorno’s social team. They accidentally made a humorous tweet about pizza and attached the #WhyIStayed hashtag – which was referring to domestic violence in response to the Ray Rice scandal.

“Uh-oh”

After a huge corporate social fail, there are different ways of handling the situation. Some companies choose to simply go dark. Others will delete a tweet/post and pretend it never happened. After they joked about the social upheaval in Egypt, Kenneth Cole made an apology and then waited for the next news cycle. DiGiorno also made a couple major apologies and tried to respond to each person who was offended by the post. They have not tweeted again since apologizing for the incident, which took place in early September.

While DiGiorno’s response was the most appropriate for them, most companies don’t have the manpower to devote to individual responses – especially if they have 82k followers.

How to sidestep disaster

Strategize on voice. While developing your social strategy, discuss what the voice of your company should be. Make sure it is in line with your corporate values and brand reputation. Are you going to be witty and funny about anything in pop culture or will you focus only on industry-specific topics?

Research the context. Even if it means your tweet will take 15 minutes longer to be sent, make sure that you research a topic before posting about it – especially trending topics on twitter.

Test it on teammates. A tweet that seems innocuous to you could be offensive to someone else. Take a few minutes to ask your co-workers what they think. Asking 3-5 different people should let you know if there are any potential landmines.

As always, we are here to help with your social strategy… contact us if you have any questions.