Cambridge Analytica: Hysteria Hyped

 Photo Credit: Huffington Post https://bit.ly/2unxdhe

Photo Credit: Huffington Post https://bit.ly/2unxdhe

Cambridge Analytica and Facebook hysteria. Put aside political preferences and selling of user lists (although emails lists are regularly purchased). Let’s focus on what’s also under assault this week breaking the internet – so-called “psychological warfare,” better known as digital marketing.

That’s right, people are freaking out that they were marketed to and how well the marketing performed. But the reality is that the user targeting and messaging doom and gloom scenario described by the Guardian and genius of Mr. Wylie are actually the norms of modern-day digital marketing. That is, using sophisticated audience targeting and tailored messaging. It happens every day, all the time, all over the world.

Mr. Wylie’s fancy algorithms to find people most likely to click – that’s called data science.  Thousands of companies invest in data science to drive their businesses, maximizing return on investment.  This isn’t just a Facebook, Google, Amazon thing – it’s a way the world works thing.  And 99% of time smart, good people do their best and the right thing for customers and companies.

Ever see one of those “recommended products” sections? How about an email for “products you may also like?” Data science and digital marketing in action. The notion that this is the first time everyone is experiencing this is outrageous. Think about it, everyone complaining about data science today has experienced it many times within the last 24-hrs and had zero issues with it.

Back to Cambridge…it’s Important to understand the way Cambridge used the data isn’t novel or magical. Looking closely at what’s been reported, using the data from 50 million app subscribers accelerated and reduced the cost of what could’ve been closely replicated through traditional digital marketing methodology. Works something like this…

1. Build basic websites, Facebook pages and Instagram profiles. Even launch their own Facebook app instead of buying data!

2. Target users based on numerous political attributes – profile interests, TV shows, celebrities, politicians, geography, etc.

3. Launch political/cultural ads to determine the degree of users’ liberalism or conservatism

4. Measure people’s engagement with the ads then tailor subsequent ads/messaging

It’s that straightforward but would absolutely take some time to be done well.

Furthermore, people are really losing it over how effective ads were. The fact that messaging can be tailored to groups of people is being called “spooky.” But it happens to everyone ALL THE TIME. Every speech. Every meeting. Every ad. Messaging is tailored to the audience. How about the new video where the gentleman describes putting great content out into social media – hello! Social media teams around the globe do that every day. In fact, there’s a huge industry dedicated to communicating effectively called public relations - been around for centuries, leveraged by politicians and companies. Usually people enjoy being told what they want to hear, it’s not seen as offensive or controversial.

The truth is a user would only keep being served ads if he/she liked, clicked, watched ads or visited sites. Stop engaging with ads, stop receiving ads. Which means people are actually upset about their own actions. This is like people complaining about ads for products they liked and bought – think about it.

And, Interestingly, even candy bars are causing a ruckus. The seemingly alarming discovery by Wylie that certain people like Kit Kats, is not rocket science and accessible via the Facebook Audience Insights tool or more slowly via expensive 3rd-party research databases. In fact this author made a similar discovery once that revealed an audience indexed high for frozen yogurt and small pickup trucks/SUVs. Rather than turning this universe-altering finding into something like “Operation Kit Kat” and calling the CIA it became nothing more than Operation Water Cooler topic and a lighthearted way to start meetings. Cool story bro, but we never held photoshoots in front of Chevy Colorados and Toyota Tacomas with people eating Pink Berry (maybe we should have tried that…).

Broken down to its simplest form, here’s a translation from hysteria to marketing speak. Ph.D. in rocket science not required.

“Identify people” means create an audience

o   Use your own email database or ad targeting info like demographics, interests, shopping behavior, prior ad engagement

“Ads designed to get a reaction” means strategic messaging and great creative assets

“Sophisticated secret algorithms” means use data to determine people most likely to click

o   Propensity to purchase models for existing customers, scoring (ranking) leads

The right moments” means media strategy and where people are in the funnel

o   Awareness – consideration – likely to purchase

“Get better over time” means measuring results and improving

“Serve ads based on people’s reactions” means behavioral targeting and sequential ads

o   Different messages displayed in a particular sequence

Hopefully this article contributes to quelling the hysteria a bit. In the end, it’s important that we understand what we’re so upset about and look closely at how information is presented to us. Political preference and marketing are obvious causes of angst in this instance. If marketing’s got you down, realize this is the way the world works and has been for quite some time. If it’s politics, understand modern marketing isn’t unique to the right or left. Though content is everywhere and nonstop, you the user still has power over what you decide to click, watch, visit and buy. The game’s not over. You still have a choice. And regarding that choice…there’s an algorithm for that.

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Joseph Nolan is a NYC-based marketing consultant and thought leader with over a decade at major brands in auto, ecommerce, lifestyle and fitness. Opinions are his own. Feedback, article ideas and business inquiries welcomed at joe@jonomkt.com. Learn more at jonomkt.com + @josephjnolan.

 

Facebook Algorithm Apocalypse 2018

Breath in…and…out. Step back from the social media ledge, the world isn’t ending (yet). Although the buzz about the great Facebook algorithm change of 2018 has been so tremendous, one might think the digital marketing apocalypse was finally upon us. 

Yes, the reality is branded content was further deprioritized and social ad inventory will decrease - so buckle up. The results at first glance can cause concern: ad rates may increase due to decreased inventory and fewer people will see organic content. Now what for marketers??! Damned if you pay, damned if you don’t.

Not so fast on the doom and gloom. Let’s pause for a minute and take a close look at the social landscape. First regarding advertising…ad rates may increase but maybe not as pervasively as anticipated and not so much so as to be a deterrent from spending. What if in the future you received the same number of purchases for the same cost as today but frequency and impressions went down? In other words, your CPMs go up but your CPAs stay the same - greater efficiency. Not so bad after all, right? And, all the while users have a better experience which means they spend more time on Facebook and that benefits both Facebook and your business. Not impossible...

That’s right, we tend to neglect that Facebook has the most powerful ad intent platform in history and it’s in their best interest to continue to deliver results for their advertisers. Better today than ever before, they know when people will watch your vids, click your ads and buy your products. Don’t believe me? Simple example, they retarget other members of a household using the same IP address with relevant ads within 1-3 minutes of a user visiting a company’s site - get on onboard it’s not hype.

Additionally, the ad platform has evolved perhaps more significantly in the last 6-8 months than ever before making it easier for marketers to be more successful. Asset creation and testing, advanced targeting and measurement, robust campaign optimization capabilities - all of these previously privileged to 3rd party ad tools now at the fingertips of every advertiser in Ads Manager. So the tools are available to the masses to be more effective, more efficient with less wasted spend.

Now the good stuff, the holy grail of social media - organic content. It’s FREE so it’s got to be good - oh wait, forgot about those rapidly growing content production and personnel budgets…The reality is the organic reach percentage is already at ~0.7% on Facebook and ~4-10% on Instagram — that means that on average less than 1% of your Facebook fans will even see a post every day, let alone engage with it. And, the engagement number is roughly 10% of the 0.7% reach! Now maybe that organic reach drops to 0.4%, or 5% on Insta…so what? Is that really making a dent in your campaign?

The best brands generate up to ~9-10% of traffic organically from social channels (excluding media publishers and top of the top online retailers) and these visitors tend to be overwhelmingly existing customers. This means that organic traffic isn’t the cure all of online customer acquisition like many companies are learning the hard way after over leveraging personnel allocation to content creation. Should you continue try to excel at organic content in order to maximize that organic reach and engagement rate - ABSOLUTELY. Is organic content effective at retention - YES. Does organic play a role in acquisition - SURE. Magic bullet - NO.

So should you look to diversify further from social with this latest algorithm? Where will you go? Display ads? Likely not, the c-suite threshold for believing 22 impressions causes a purchase has about reached its peak. More paid search? Perhaps, but you’re probably really good at SEM already and you’re saturated. Event marketing? Nope. OOH? Umm, no. Straightforward solution: continue to get better at social overall - organic and paid - and excel at omni-channel / CRM. Instead of screaming SOS, start championing S-E-S. Now more than ever it’s a Search - Email - Social world. And not necessarily in that order...

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Joseph Nolan is a NYC-based marketing consultant and thought leader with over a decade at major brands in auto, ecommerce, lifestyle and fitness. Opinions are his own. Feedback, article ideas and business inquiries welcomed at joe@jonomkt.com. Learn more @ jonomkt.com / @josephjnolan.

Ads Achieve Audio Supremacy

Breaking through during the holiday season is no easy feat -  you can buy your way in front of customers (impossible for 98% of advertisers) or you can be unique via clever creative or the outrageous - sometimes both.  

Now most of us have seen these ads, but they truly standout amidst an abyss of new holiday TV spots and flooded inboxes. Thankfully Apple, Google and Houzz have made the most of their ability to buy their way to top of mind and delivered super cool creatives. 

Focus on audio… Take a look at how well the track captivates from the first second then maintains the heightened energy until the very end. Sound is perfectly edited to enhance the visuals and text overlays - they don’t compete or play alongside, they function as one. Audio is integral to the storytelling not an afterthought. And finally, whether you’re an ios addict or Google to the core, it’s easy to agree these ads stand out in the standard 6-minute commercial lineup where people only watch about 6 seconds…what do you think?

Apple - "Meet iPhone X"

FIRST. BEST. MOST.

Does this pep talk from the boss sound familiar? “We need to break through. Where is the excitement in our marketing? Go innovate. Market share is on the line. Budgets are tight. We need a big idea!” Or, the opposite side of the pressure to perform equation…"Let’s just keep doing what we’re doing. What we’re doing has worked in the past but research shows it’s starting to fade. Where do we even start with trying to find new campaigns and ideas?”

FBM to the rescue – FIRST. BEST. MOST. Years ago I was part of a completely new marketing department at a major company tasked with reinventing an antiquated brand in a highly competitive industry. When it came time to develop our annual plan, the direction from the c-suite was crystal clear: cut ~50% of existing run-the-business (RTB) activities and allocate the resources to programs that are First, Best or Most.

More recently I found myself a part of a marketing organization that prided itself on being “world-class.” First week on the job in an annual planning meeting with the CMO and after hearing “world-class” about 60 times in 4 days, I asked him to define what the phrase meant to him. His response was an unequivocal, “You’re to create programs and bring ideas to life that are first of their kind, best in our industry or will garner the most sales, engagement or media attention. Anything that doesn’t fit into one of these categories should be discontinued or not considered.”

The unfortunate reality is many, if not most, marketing departments don’t operate by the FBM philosophy or weave it into their portfolio to some degree, perhaps most obviously with RTB activities or for major product launches. There’s an aisle in the library packed with volumes on why organizations choose not to operate this way – too risky, stressful, corporate culture, weak leadership – so let’s focus briefly on why it works.

First, having clear objectives aligns teams on goals/KPIs and creates a solidarity leading to greater efficiencies that tend to outperform 5 teams doing 5 different things. Second, FBM programs are likely to receive considerable scrutiny from across the org and external partners. So although perceived as high risk on Day 1, by the time an idea is agreed upon and vetted, it has a better than average chance at succeeding – otherwise it wouldn’t go to market right?! (bulls eye - sarcasm) Anything that strays from the beaten path always encounters skepticism and when the product launch is on the line, it’s amazing the ends to which people will CYA and try to make the campaign a winner.

Last, FBMs can replace some RTB efforts and should theoretically beat their performance. At inception FBMs are often incremental initiatives, not everyone has the luxury of scrapping 50% of their daily duties. But if executed successfully, FBM programs make it considerably easier to let go of the sometimes years-old ways of doing things and transition to the new school. No small feat indeed.

So where do stand with FBM? Is your upcoming campaign the FIRST of its kind? Do you have a program that is BEST in the biz? Did your last launch reach the MOST people and drive the most sales? Does the first line your agency brief read First-Best-Most? Look forward to your comments below. Don’t be afraid to boast with your FBMs!

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Joseph Nolan is a Los Angeles-based marketing and digital executive with over a decade of experience at leading companies in retail, ecommerce, entertainment and health/fitness. Opinions expressed on JoeSocial.com are his own. Please direct business inquiries and suggestions for future posts to joe@joesocial.com.