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Monthly Archives: April 2021

Why Startups Need Diversification In Digital Marketing

April 30, 2021 No Comments

If there was (1) one piece of advice I would give Startups (especially Early Stage), it would be diversification…  and a lot of it. startups typically have very limited advertising budgets so they have to account for every penny they spend. In this article, I will explain the reasons for this diversification as well as how best to execute them on a limited budget.

Set Realistic Expectations:

As one of the most “bastardized” words in agency world, it’s imperative to keep everyone’s hopes and dreams in check with regard to the online marketplace. Attending conferences, reading case studies and talking with other business owners is not only a great idea, it’s encouraged. however, it can also “set off” false expectations that could be devastating to the overall goals and objectives. I have advised clients (both past and present) to NEVER trust Google with their campaigns, keywords and budgets because they don’t care about growing your business, they just want your money. Bottom line: If it sounds too good to be true, your instincts are correct!

Separate of Brand vs. Non-Brand:

It’s simple math. It costs more money to reach consumers who DO NOT already know your brand. Over time, the brand takes “all of the credit” because that is how everyone searches for you. But, here’s the catch. Getting to that phase in consumer behavior can be difficult to achieve, especially on the wallet. Here are a couple strategies that can not only help the wallet, but also the align the expectations.

  • Leverage Google Display, Mobile and YouTube Video networks
    • Low cost ($ 0.10 – $ 1.00 CPC/CPV).
    • More continuous visibility.
    • Expectations are set to branding only.
  • Utilize micro-targeting of Social media for specific audience testing
    • Target specific audience segments within a short period of time.
    • High volume allows for multi-variate ad testing.
    • Conversion tracking pixels allow for full analytics reporting.

Monetize Everything

This may sound like a “no-brainer” to some of you, but startups tend to forget that measuring success is more than just placing an order or a form submission. Often, little things like email signups, chat sessions and phone calls eventually lead to “real” conversions later on in the buying cycle. It’s important for everyone involved to consider these little conversions in the overall big picture. In some instances, these interactions act as a barometer when something is wrong or unclear and can help improve usability within the website experience.

In Conclusion:

Startups are faced with tough decisions when it comes to advertising due to their limited Ad budgets. They also cannot afford to, “bet the farm” on something that they heard at a conference or read in a case study. In 2016, consumers are everywhere (Google Search, Facebook Ads. YouTube. Twitter Ads, etc…) and startups need to leverage all of the platforms to maximize their exposure. They also need to understand that certain ad platforms serve different purposes as well as perform better than others.

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Seven first-party data capturing opportunities your business is missing out on

April 30, 2021 No Comments

30-second summary:

  • Third-party data is being phased out by big tech, making first-party data indispensable
  • First-party data is willingly provided by users, helping you build a consumer profile
  • Internet users are cautious about providing their data but will do if rewarded
  • Tracking pixels, CRM platforms, surveys, and encouraging interaction and registrations are all effective ways to capture first-party data
  • First-party data must be used responsibly, repaying the trust placed in a business by consumers

When doing business online, data is arguably the greatest currency of all. By obtaining reliable data about your target audience, an effective and bespoke marketing plan can be devised. This will convince customers that you understand their unique needs, desires, and pain points.

Alas, not all data is created equal. As the influence of the internet grows, and the fallout of the Cambridge Analytica scandal continues to reverberate, consumer privacy is more important than ever. Any online business needs to build a consumer profile in an ethical, reliable manner. This makes the collection of first-party data critical.

What is first-party data?

First-party data is consumer information collated directly by your business, based on user behavior. This data can be used to build a profile of your target audience, tailoring your marketing and user experience accordingly.

What is the difference between first-party, second-party, and third-party data?

As discussed, first-party data is user information collated directly from your website. We will discuss how you can obtain first-party data shortly. Let’s clarify the difference between this approach and second- or third-party data, though.

Second-party data is essentially the first-party data collated by another business. This may be shared between two websites for an agreed common good. However, second-party data remains private. It will not be made available to the public and cannot be purchased.

Third-party data is that which you purchase, usually from a data management platform (DMP) or consumer data platform (CDP). These platforms harvest data from users based on their online habits. These are known as tracking cookies. It is important to note that third-party data is not gained through any personal relationship with consumers.

The use of third-party data is slowly being phased out. Internet users are growingly increasingly security-conscious and are looking to shape online privacy policies. Google has announced that they will be removing third-party cookies from 2022, while the Firefox and Safari browsers have all already done so. With Google Chrome accounting for some 65 percent of global web browser traffic, the impact of this will be keenly felt.

In essence, third-party data is a dying art, and second-party data ultimately belongs to somebody else. This means that first-party data collation should be a priority for any online business, now and in the future.

How does first-party data help a business?

As intimated previously, first-party data is used to build a consumer profile. Think of this as market research straight from the horse’s mouth. By monitoring how users interact with your web presence, you can offer them more of what they want – and less of what will not interest, or even alienate, them. After all, there is little to gain by marketing a steakhouse restaurant to somebody that exclusively shows interest in a vegan lifestyle.

Perhaps the most effective example of marketing through first-party data is Amazon. We’ve likely all purchased something from Jeff Bezos’ empire at one time or other. Even if a conversion was not completed, you may have browsed the products on offer. Amazon uses this data to build personalized recommendations on your next visit.

It’s not just a tool for direct interaction on a website, though. First-party data is also invaluable for advertising. By learning about the habits of a user, tailored marketing can reach them on social media. This is a powerful form of inbound marketing that piques consumer interest.

Consumers that have previously been exclusively interested in red circles may be tempted to experiment with a blue triangle, but they are likelier to stick to type. By embracing first-party data, you can meet customer needs before they ask. This is a cornerstone of success, especially in the competitive world of online commerce. After all, 63 percent of customers now expect at least some measure of personalization from any service provider.

Creative ways to capture first-party data

Capturing first-party data is a delicate art. With consumers wary about how much the tech industry knows about them, this data may not be provided freely. You’ll need to offer something in return. 90 percent of consumers will willingly offer first-party data if you make it worth their while.

Most importantly, you’ll need to be transparent about how first-party data is captured and used. Consumers are wary by default, and you’ll need to earn their trust. An open acknowledgment of the data you collect, and how it will be used, is the first step to achieving this faith.

Seven great opportunities to capture first-party data

Let’s discuss some ways to help your business obtain first-party data that will help elevate your business to the next level.

1. Add tracking pixels to a website

Tracking pixels are tiny – usually no bigger than 1 x 1 – pixels that users rarely notice. These are installed in websites through coding and collate first-party data about user habits.

This could include what pages are viewed, the adverts that garner interest, and personal information such as whether the user browses through a mobile or desktop appliance.

This all sounds like cookies, but there is a crucial difference. Cookies can be disabled or cleared, as they are saved within the browser of the server. A tracking pixel is native to your website, so it will capture data from every visit, regardless of what settings the user enables.

2. Use a CRM platform

Customer relationship management (CRM) software is growing increasingly popular with online businesses. Chatbots are perhaps the best example of this. Chatbots are not for everybody – many consumers still prefer to interact with a human – but 90 percent of businesses claim that chatbots have enhanced the speed and efficiency of problem resolution.

What’s more, chatbots effortlessly capture first-party data. If a user has an issue or concern, they may grow weary of waiting on hold on the phone for 15 minutes and hang up. That lead is now potentially lost forever, and you’ll never know what they were looking for. Even if a chatbot cannot encourage a user to convert, you’ll have an idea of what they were interested in. This will aid in targeted marketing and user personalization in the future.

3. Reward users for sharing their data with you

As mentioned previously, customers want to be rewarded for their exchange of data. Ideally, this will be an immediate, tangible reward such as a discount. At the very least, provide evidence that you are personalizing your service to unique consumer needs.

Not every business will be able to offer immediate fiscal motivation to every user. There are other ways to reward consumers, though. Monthly giveaways are a good example, especially when advertised and managed through social media. Encourage people to like and share a post, promising to provide an incentive to one lucky winner at the end of the month.

This is easily dismissed as a cynical marketing ploy, so you’ll need to follow through on your promise. More importantly, you’ll need to make it clear that you have done so. If consumers believe that they are in with a shot of something for nothing, though, they are likelier to consider the use of their data a fair exchange.

4. Encourage interaction

Buzzfeed may not the first place many look for hard-hitting journalism, but it enjoyed stellar traffic for many years. Why? Because it encouraged interaction through goofy online quizzes that offered easy ways to harvest consumer data.

This isn’t necessarily a model for every website to follow. You need to protect your brand reputation. Inviting people to learn which pizza topping defines them best may do more harm than good. Similar exercises surrounding your business may encourage interaction though. A quiz about your business sector, promising a reward for completion, will attract interest.

Any competent SEO services agency will tell you that quizzes and other interactive elements on a page can also have the bonus of helping with SEO. This is because an important metric for Google when evaluating the quality of your website is “time spent on page”. If Google can see that your visitors are spending several minutes looking at a page, then this is a positive signal that the page is engaging and interesting to visitors.

Another strategy could be unlockable social media posts. Consumers will be intrigued about what you are offering behind a shield. Paywalls are likely to deter, but promising content-centric rewards if people share their data can be effective – if the result is worth the sacrifice.

5. Conduct surveys

The march of technology ensures that all consumers now have a voice. They expect this to be heard. Never lose sight of the fact that consumers hold the power in the 21st Century. Negative reviews of products and services can cost a business up to 80 percent of potential conversions.

The simplest way to achieve this is by issuing surveys to your existing customers, and even potential leads. Do not expect a 100% return rate, especially if you do not offer a reward for the time of consumers. Some will leap at the chance to express their opinions though, providing you with valuable first-party insights.

6. Encourage registration

If you run an ecommerce website, conversions are the most important bottom line of all. This means that many businesses will, understandably, offer services that increase the likelihood of making a sale. This could include guest checkout, a policy preferred by half of all online consumers.

The issue with guest checkout is that it captures less data than signing a customer up. Many consumers choose guest checkout as it’s faster, provides more privacy (especially when paying with an e-wallet rather than a credit card), and – theoretically – protects their inbox from unwanted marketing communication.

As we have established though, many consumers will provide data if you offer something in return. The most popular example of this is a discount on the first purchase. Couple this with a promise of personalized offers and an enhanced shopping experience and you’re likelier to see more sign-ups.

Just be careful about what data you are asking for. Be sure to explain why information is important. Unless a credit check is necessary, for example, many customers may be reluctant to share their date of birth. If you promise to offer exclusive offers around their birthday, however, your argument will be much more persuasive.

7. Host events

Younger consumers value experience over results. The days of gaining unstinting loyalty through providing goods or services at an affordable price are over. The rise of social media, and its omnipresence in the lives of Millennials and Generation Z, means that a personal connection is required.

Live events can provide this. Host an AMA, whereby a senior figure of your business answers questions about your practices. This can also be a great way to reassure consumers that you operate in a sustainable, socially conscious manner – something hugely important to many modern consumers. A live product launch can be another way to attract users.

How does this benefit first-party data? Attending the event will require registration. Even if the number of sign-ups is not mirrored by the eventual attendees, you have gained valuable data. You will also capture insights from those that do attend the event, especially if you encourage interaction.

Mistakes to avoid when capturing first-party data

As we have been at pains to point out, consumer data is a sensitive subject. First-party data is invaluable, but it must be obtained without betraying the trust of consumers. Here are some key pitfalls to avoid in your data collection strategy.

  • Do not ask for something for nothing. Data sharing needs to be a quid pro quo exchange
  • Avoid getting too personal – only seek data that is relevant to your business model
  • Be clear about how the data will be used, offering consumers the opportunity to opt-out if this is their preference
  • Shout from the rooftops about your privacy policies. Users can never be made to feel too safe
  • Use the data responsibly, offering value to consumers and not abusing the information you have gained. Trust is hard to gain and easy to lose. As Google discovered, unethical use of data that breaches trust can also be very costly

Is your website making the best use of first-party data? Do you have any additional creative suggestions of how this information can be ethically sourced? These are the questions that will define the success of your business going forward. Be sure to hop onto the first-party data train now. It has already left the station and is rapidly picking up speed.

Joe Dawson is Director of strategic growth agency Creative.onl, based in the UK. He can be found on Twitter @jdwn.

The post Seven first-party data capturing opportunities your business is missing out on appeared first on Search Engine Watch.

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The Best Weighted Blankets for Calm and Comfort

April 30, 2021 No Comments

These accessories might not cure your anxiety or insomnia, but they can feel like a hug when you really need one.
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Why Honesty is the Best Policy in PPC Marketing

April 29, 2021 No Comments

Over the years, I have seen so many horror stories when it comes to PPC Management. Whether it’s advertisers flying blind with their ad budgets or the common event of not knowing that their ads are being shown with irrelevant terms, there should always 100% transparency between the agency and the client. Furthermore, there needs to be more HONESTY on behalf of the PPC Agency. In this post, I will talk about a few areas of the Agency/Client Relationship that should be based on being honest with the client.

Educate the Advertiser:

Let’s face it, the PPC agency knows more about PPC Marketing than the client. However, that does not mean the client needs to be taken advantage of because they do not know how everything works. The person handling the client’s account needs to “in many ways” educate the client as to what is working, not working and where there are opportunities.

Admit Mistakes:

Everyone makes mistakes, right? Well, PPC Agencies should not try and hide them just because they can get away with it. Agencies should be forthcoming with admitting mistakes that were made and how efficiently and effectively they were fixed. It’s better to be honest with the client, than having them find out later that you lied to them. Ever heard of a Referral or a Testimonial?

Honest and Factual Reporting:

Over the years, I have seen so many poor examples of PPC Reporting where clients receive an excel spreadsheet of just Clicks, Impressions, CTR%, CPCs, etc… and not a single keyword or text ad or even a sentence on the performance of the account. In today’s world that is unacceptable.  Moreover, I have also seen examples of trend charts being manipulated to disguise the true performance of a specific metric. Agencies have a responsibility to provide not only excellent service, but also honest and factual reporting.

Managing Expectations:


PPC Marketing is not for everyone and for those who are spending money have this perception that the more they spend the better the results. That is completely FALSE. If an client/advertiser was given any sort of Guarantee from an agency, they should “run for the hills”. Guarantees in PPC Marketing are very dangerous for both parties because they create false expectations. An agency must be honest and upfront with the client when it comes to setting expectations both on performance and future success. The agency must have a clear understanding of the client’s:

  • Cost per Conversions/Acquisition
  • Targeted Audience
  • Messaging Tactics
  • Daily and Monthly Budgets

In Conclusion:

Honesty is always the best policy in PPC. Agencies have a responsibility to not only provide excellent service, but also be honest and forthcoming with the client. I have heard countless stories of poor PPC Management, including the topics I mentioned in this post. Some may say that is good for the industry because it creates more “turnover” and more opportunities for other agencies. However, for this PPC Geek, I believe in Happy Clients.

The post Why Honesty is the Best Policy in PPC Marketing appeared first on .



Social networking app for women, Peanut, adds live audio rooms

April 28, 2021 No Comments

Mobile social networking app for women, Peanut, is today becoming the latest tech company to integrate audio into its product following the success of Clubhouse. Peanut, which began with a focus on motherhood, has expanded over the years to support women through all life stages, including pregnancy, marriage and even menopause. It sees its voice chat feature, which it’s calling “Pods,” as a way women on its app can make better connections in a more supportive, safer environment than other platforms may provide.

The pandemic, of course, likely drove some of the interest in audio-based social networking, as people who had been stuck at home found it helped to fill the gap that in-person networking and social events once did. However, voice chat social networking leader Clubhouse has since seen its model turned into what’s now just a feature for companies like Facebook, Twitter, Reddit, LinkedIn, Discord and others to adopt.

Like many of the Clubhouse clones to date, Peanut’s Pods offer the basics, including a muted audience of listeners who virtually “raise their hand” to speak, emoji reactions and hosts who can moderate the conversations and invite people to speak, among other things. The company, for now, is doing its own in-house moderation on the audio pods, to ensure the conversations don’t violate the company’s terms. In time, it plans to scale to include other moderators. (The company pays over two dozen moderators to help it manage the rest of its app, but the team had not yet been trained on audio, as of just a few days ago. They have now been given the training, we understand.)

Though there are similarities with Clubhouse in its design, what Peanut believes will differentiate its audio experience from the rest of the pack is where these conversations are taking place — on a network designed for women built with safety and trust in mind. It’s also a network where chasing clout is not the reason people participate.

Traditional social networks are often based on how many likes you have, how many followers you have, or if you’re verified with a blue check, explains Peanut founder CEO Michelle Kennedy.

“It’s kind of all based around status and popularity,” she says. “What we’ve only ever seen on Peanut is this ‘economy of care,’ where women are really supportive of one another. It’s really never been about, ‘I’ve got X number of followers.’ We don’t even have that concept. It’s always been about: ‘I need support; I have this question; I’m lonely or looking for a friend;’ or whatever it might be,” Kennedy adds.

In Peanut Pods, the company says it will continue to enforce the safety standards that make women feel comfortable with social networking. This focus in particular could attract some of the women, and particularly women of color, who have been targeted with harassment on other voice-based networking platforms.

“The one thing I would say is we’re a community, and we have standards,” notes Kennedy. “When you have standards and you let everyone know what those standards are, it’s very clear. You’re allowed an opinion but what you’re not allowed to do are listed here…Here are the things we expect of you as a user and we’ll reward you if you do it and if you don’t, we’re going to ask you to leave,” she says.

Freedom of speech is not what Peanut’s about, she adds.

“We have standards and we ask you to adhere to them,” says Kennedy.

In time, Peanut envisions using the audio feature to help connect women with people who have specific expertise, like lactation consultants for new moms or fertility doctors, for example. But these will not be positioned as lectures where listeners are held hostage as a speaker drones on and on. In fact, Peanut’s design does away with the “stage” concept from Clubhouse to give everyone equal status — whether they’re speaking or not.

In the app, users will be able to find interesting chats based on what topics they’re already following — and, importantly, they can avoid being shown other topics by muting them.

The Pods feature is rolling out to Peanut’s app starting today, where it will reach the company’s now 2 million-plus users. It will be free to use, like all of Peanut, though the company plans to eventually launch a freemium model with some paid products further down the road.

Update, 4/27/21, 3:40 PM ET: Article updated to note moderators have now received Pods training. 


Social – TechCrunch


Ivorian startup Afrikrea partners with DHL and Visa to launch SaaS e-commerce platform ANKA

April 28, 2021 No Comments

In 2016, Ivorian e-commerce startup Afrikrea started as a marketplace for African-based and inspired clothing, accessories, arts, and crafts. Over the past five years, Afrikrea has served more than 7,000 sellers from 47 African countries and buyers from 170 countries.

Per the company’s data, it records more than 500,000 visits monthly, with the majority of its customers from Europe and North America recording over $ 15 million in transactions.

But while Afrikrea presents African merchants to showcase and sell their products to the world, it is just one of the many channels available, including personal websites and social media.

Co-founder and CEO Moulaye Taboure says that he noticed that merchants were splitting time and concentration across different channels, which affected their engagement with Afrikrea.

“We noticed that it was getting harder for our sellers to make sales because they were losing time, money and energy switching between channels,” Taboure told TechCrunch. “Every time they want to sell a product, they put it on social media, Afrikrea, and other websites. And when one buyer shows interest, there is no single place to track and see all the orders. That’s hard for these businesses to offer quality services and grow effectively.”

Then last year, Afrikrea began testing an all-in-one SaaS e-commerce platform for these merchants. Today, it is announcing its launch. The platform called ANKA will allow users to sell from Africa, ship products to anywhere in the world and get paid through local and international African payment methods.

Afrikrea

Image Credits:

E-commerce, payments and global shipping. That’s ANKA’s play for thousands of micro-retailers and businesses on the continent and around the world.

The platform lets users sell via an omnichannel dashboard with a single inventory, orders and messages management. Customers can carry out transactions via a customized online storefront like Shopify, social media platforms, links such as on Gumroad and the Afrikrea marketplace.

Merchants can carry out payments and payouts via a wallet and an Afrikrea Visa card. The platform, which costs $ 12, allows customers to perform mobile money and mobile banking transactions with MPesa, Orange, MTN and PayPal

Shipping completes the entire sales life cycle, from the point of sale to receipt of goods. In 2019, Afrikrea partnered with global logistics partner DHL to offer shipping services to its customers.

Fashion is ANKA’s best-selling category because of its affiliation with Afrikrea. The African fashion and apparel market is worth $ 31billion, per Euromonitor, and Afrikrea estimates the yearly spend of its major markets to be worth $ 12.5 billion. A breakdown from the company puts “the African diaspora in Europe at $ 1 billion, those in America and the Caribbean at $ 9 billion and non-Africans with links to the continent at $ 2.5 billion.”

But in terms of general e-commerce activities on the continent, McKinsey & Company pegs consumer spending to reach $ 2.1 trillion by 2025. African e-commerce is also expected to account for up to 10% of retail sales.

Platforms like Jumia, Mall4Africa and Takealot have been at the forefront of this growth over this past decade. MallforAfrica struck a partnership with DHL in 2015, then launched DHL Africa eShop with the logistics giant four years later. More than 200 sellers from the U.S. and U.K. serve African consumers in more than 30 countries on the platform.

Unlike MallforAfrica and other e-commerce platforms, ANKA differentiates itself as a platform for export rather than import, specifically for African products. According to Moulaye, ANKA is currently the largest e-commerce exporter on the continent, and since its partnership with DHL, it has shipped more than 10 tons of cargo monthly from Africa

“We are the biggest client of DHL exporting from Africa. We ship 10 tons every month and have sellers in 47 African countries, with Kenya and Nigeria as our largest markets. We have something African that is going to a global scale. That’s one of the angles we had with Afrikrea, and we want to keep that with ANKA. What sets us apart is that we’re not just trying to solve a purely African problem; we want to solve a global problem for Africans.”

Since launching five years ago, Afrikrea, which Taboure launched with Luc B. Perussault Diallo and Kadry Diallo, has raised a total of $ 2.1 million per Crunchbase. In this period, the company has seen its revenue grow 5x and claims to have ARR more than it has raised in its lifetime. To continue its growth efforts, Afrikrea is in the process of concluding a Series A round later this year.


Startups – TechCrunch


Vista Equity takes minority stake in Canada’s Vena with $242M investment

April 27, 2021 No Comments

Vena, a Canadian company focused on the Corporate Performance Management (CPM) software space, has raised $ 242 million in Series C funding from Vista Equity Partners.

As part of the financing, Vista Equity is taking a minority stake in the company. The round follows $ 25 million in financing from CIBC Innovation Banking last September, and brings Vena’s total raised since its 2011 inception to over $ 363 million.

Vena declined to provide any financial metrics or the valuation at which the new capital was raised, saying only that its “consistent growth and…strong customer retention and satisfaction metrics created real demand” as it considered raising its C round.

The company was originally founded as a B2B provider of planning, budgeting and forecasting software. Over time, it’s evolved into what it describes as a “fully cloud-native, corporate performance management platform” that aims to empower finance, operations and business leaders to “Plan to Growtheir businesses. Its customers hail from a variety of industries, including banking, SaaS, manufacturing, healthcare, insurance and higher education. Among its over 900 customers are the Kansas City Chiefs, Coca-Cola Consolidated, World Vision International and ELF Cosmetics.

Vena CEO Hunter Madeley told TechCrunch the latest raise is “mostly an acceleration story for Vena, rather than charting new paths.”

The company plans to use its new funds to build out and enable its go-to-market efforts as well as invest in its product development roadmap. It’s not really looking to enter new markets, considering it’s seeing what it describes as “tremendous demand” in the markets it currently serves directly and through its partner network.

“While we support customers across the globe, we’ll stay focused on growing our North American, U.K. and European business in the near term,” Madeley said.

Vena says it leverages the “flexibility and familiarity” of an Excel interface within its “secure” Complete Planning platform. That platform, it adds, brings people, processes and systems into a single source solution to help organizations automate and streamline finance-led processes, accelerate complex business processes and “connect the dots between departments and plan with the power of unified data.”            

Early backers JMI Equity and Centana Growth Partners will remain active, partnering with Vista “to help support Vena’s continued momentum,” the company said. As part of the raise, Vista Equity Managing Director Kim Eaton and Marc Teillon, senior managing director and co-head of Vista’s Foundation Fund, will join the company’s board.

“The pandemic has emphasized the need for agile financial planning processes as companies respond to quickly-changing market conditions, and Vena is uniquely positioned to help businesses address the challenges required to scale their processes through this pandemic and beyond,” said Eaton in a written statement. 

Vena currently has more than 450 employees across the U.S., Canada and the U.K., up from 393 last year at this time.


Enterprise – TechCrunch


Why Storytelling is Essential in Digital Marketing

April 27, 2021 No Comments

As Marketers our job is to not only interpret analytics data, but to also provide a summary of the performance and apply recommendations for future strategies, forecasting and on-going testing. However, this standard metric of decoding is not enough and we need to find a better way to communicate successes and failures that the client can understand. That is why storytelling is just as important now than it was when we are in Kindergarten when the teacher read us a story in a circle.

In this post, I will highlight the importance of storytelling with the client which not only helps the client understand, but also reinforces the client-agency relationship.

Storytelling is also a Science

As marketers, early on we are classically trained to become proficient in Excel, Powerpoint and (my personal favorite) writing on whiteboards so that we can be perceived as smartest one in the room. These elements of communication comprise of bullet points, summarizations, goals and objectives, sales vs. cost projections, etc… On the contrary, we are most likely doing it all wrong. There have been many studies and published articles that debunk this MBA/classroom method and reinforce the one of oldest and most fundamental communication methods.

In an very “eye-opening” article by Lifehacker.com published back in 2012 entitled “The Science of Storytelling: Why Telling a Story is the Most Powerful Way to Activate Our Brains“, author Leo Widrich states “It’s in fact quite simple. If we listen to a powerpoint presentation with boring bullet points, a certain part in the brain gets activated. Scientists call this Broca’s area and Wernicke’s area. Overall, it hits our language processing parts in the brain, where we decode words into meaning. And that’s it, nothing else happens. When we are being told a story, things change dramatically. Not only are the language processing parts in our brain activated, but any other area in our brain that we would use when experiencing the events of the story are too.“ So in essence, telling stories not only puts our entire brain to work it also allows the storyteller to put ideas and thoughts into the listeners brain as well.

Complexities of Storytelling

For most clients, they do not care too much about CTR%, AVG positions, bounce rates, etc… they want to know what is causing their cash register to ring below are some of the common questions they are mostly concerned about:

  • What’s working and why?
  • Whats not working and why?
  • Why are sales down this month as compared to last month?
  • How can we generate more sales without increasing the budget, etc…

Because of this difference in understanding  success metrics, marketers need to take all of the Analytics data (which are considered very complex by clients) and transform them into a story/language that they can understand. For example, lets suppose that the client saw a 50% increase in sales coming from their “Brand Terms” in Adwords as compared to the previous month. Instead of just providing them with increased performance metrics such as CTR%, Conversion rates, etc.., marketers need to do a little digging around and form a story that they can understand.

A story would be something like:

“Well, since we added more generalized “non-branded” terms as well as your interview on the local TV station, a larger audience of people who were not familiar with your brand before, typed your brand into Google and clicked on the PPC Text Ads. ” It is this type of success story that can create that “light bulb” in the heads of the client to ensure them that they are prospering their investment in you or your agency.”

Leveraging Web Analytics Data to Feed the Story

Just looking at common performance data is simply not enough to tell a story. Marketers need to look at various layers of data to comprise a story that can makes sense to the client. Identifying these interesting and important metrics such as hour of day, day of the week. GEO by state, metro area, city, direct/bookmark, conversion funnels, etc… These are examples of the metrics, combined with overall performance data is what makes up the holistic story that the client needs to hear. Moreover, these stories often lead to future optimization strategies and testing which is great for the client-agency relationship.

In Conclusion:

Trying to explain all of the intricate metrics and what they mean to a client is hard enough. But simplifying the data and creating a story around it, even as an “ice-breaker” at the beginning of the conversation, helps the client feel like they made the right choice in hiring you. The one thing we need to remember is that a story, if broken down into the simplest form, is a connection of cause and effect and that is what clients need to understand.

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Facebook introduces a new miniplayer that streams Spotify within the Facebook app

April 26, 2021 No Comments

Facebook announced last week an expanded partnership with streaming music service Spotify that would bring a new way to listen to music or podcasts directly within Facebook’s app, which it called Project Boombox. Today, the companies are rolling out this integration via a new “miniplayer” experience that will allow Facebook users to stream from Spotify through the Facebook app on iOS or Android. The feature will be available to both free Spotify users and Premium subscribers.

The miniplayer itself is an extension of the social sharing option already supported within Spotify’s app. Now, when Spotify users are listening to content they want to share to Facebook, they’ll be able to tap the existing “Share” menu (the three-dot menu at the upper right of the screen) and then tap either “Facebook” or “Facebook News Feed.”

When a user posts an individual track or podcast episode to Facebook through this sharing feature, the post will now display in a new miniplayer that allows other people who come across their post to also play the content as they continue to scroll, or reshare it. (Cue MySpace vibes!)

Spotify’s paid subscribers will be able to access full playback, the company says. Free users, meanwhile, will be able to hear the full shared track, not a clip. But afterwards, they’ll continue to listen to ad-supported content on Shuffle mode, just as they would in Spotify’s own app.

One important thing to note here about how all this works is that the integration allows the music or podcast content to actually play from within the Spotify app. When a user presses play on the miniplayer, an app switch takes place so the user can log into Spotify. The miniplayer activates and controls the launch and playback in the Spotify app — which is how the playback is able continue even as the user scrolls on Facebook or if they minimize the Facebook app altogether.

This setup means users will need to have the Spotify mobile app installed on their phone and a Spotify account for the miniplayer to work. For first-time Spotify users, they’ll have to sign up for a free account in order to listen to the music shared via the miniplayer.

Spotify notes that it’s not possible to sign up for a paid account through the mini-player experience itself, so there’s no revenue share with Facebook on new subscriptions. (Users have to download the Spotify app and sign up for Paid accounts from there if they want to upgrade.)

The partnership allows Spotify to leverage Facebook’s reach to gain distribution and to drive both sign-ups and repeat usage of its app just as the COVID bump to subscriber growth may be wearing off. However, it’s still responsible for the royalties paid on streams, just as it was before, the company told TechCrunch, because its app is the one actually doing the streaming. It’s also fully in charge of the music catalog and audio ads that play alongside the content.

For Facebook, this deal means it now has a valuable tool to keep users spending time on its site — a metric that has been declining over the years, reports have indicated.

Spotify and Facebook have a long history of working together on music efforts. Facebook back in 2011 had been planning an update that would allow music subscription users to engage with music directly on Facebook, much like this. But those plans were later dialed back, possibly over music rights’ or technical issues. Spotify had also been one of the first media partners on Facebook’s ticker, which would show you in real time what friends were up to on Facebook and other services. And Spotify had once offered Facebook Login as the default for its mobile app. Today, as it has for years, Spotify users on the desktop can see what their Facebook friends are streaming on its app, thanks to social networking integrations.

The timing for this renewed and extended partnership is interesting. Now, both Facebook and Spotify have a mutual enemy with Apple, whose privacy-focused changes are impacting Facebook’s ad business and whose investments in Apple Music and Podcasts are a threat to Spotify. As Facebook’s own music efforts in more recent years have shifted toward partnership efforts — like music video integrations enabled by music label agreements — it makes sense that it would turn to a partner like Spotify to power a new streaming feature that supports Facebook’s broader efforts around monetizable tools and services aimed at the creator economy.

The miniplayer feature had been tested in non-U.S. markets, Mexico and Thailand, ahead of its broader global launch today.

In addition to the U.S., the integration is fully rolling out to users in Argentina, Australia, Bolivia, Brazil, Canada, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Indonesia, Israel, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Nicaragua, Panama, Paraguay, Peru, South Africa, Thailand and Uruguay.


Social – TechCrunch


SLAIT’s real-time sign language translation promises more accessible online communication

April 26, 2021 No Comments

Sign language is used by millions of people around the world, but unlike Spanish, Mandarin or even Latin, there’s no automatic translation available for those who can’t use it. SLAIT claims the first such tool available for general use, which can translate around 200 words and simple sentences to start — using nothing but an ordinary computer and webcam.

People with hearing impairments, or other conditions that make vocal speech difficult, number in the hundreds of millions, rely on the same common tech tools as the hearing population. But while emails and text chat are useful and of course very common now, they aren’t a replacement for face-to-face communication, and unfortunately there’s no easy way for signing to be turned into written or spoken words, so this remains a significant barrier.

We’ve seen attempts at automatic sign language (usually American/ASL) translation for years and years: in 2012 Microsoft awarded its Imagine Cup to a student team that tracked hand movements with gloves; in 2018 I wrote about SignAll, which has been working on a sign language translation booth using multiple cameras to give 3D positioning; and in 2019 I noted that a new hand-tracking algorithm called MediaPipe, from Google’s AI labs, could lead to advances in sign detection. Turns out that’s more or less exactly what happened.

SLAIT is a startup built out of research done at the Aachen University of Applied Sciences in Germany, where co-founder Antonio Domènech built a small ASL recognition engine using MediaPipe and custom neural networks. Having proved the basic notion, Domènech was joined by co-founders Evgeny Fomin and William Vicars to start the company; they then moved on to building a system that could recognize first 100, and now 200 individual ASL gestures and some simple sentences. The translation occurs offline, and in near real time on any relatively recent phone or computer.

Animation showing ASL signs being translated to text, and spoken words being transcribed to text back.

They plan to make it available for educational and development work, expanding their dataset so they can improve the model before attempting any more significant consumer applications.

Of course, the development of the current model was not at all simple, though it was achieved in remarkably little time by a small team. MediaPipe offered an effective, open-source method for tracking hand and finger positions, sure, but the crucial component for any strong machine learning model is data, in this case video data (since it would be interpreting video) of ASL in use — and there simply isn’t a lot of that available.

As they recently explained in a presentation for the DeafIT conference, the first team evaluated using an older Microsoft database, but found that a newer Australian academic database had more and better quality data, allowing for the creation of a model that is 92 percent accurate at identifying any of 200 signs in real time. They have augmented this with sign language videos from social media (with permission, of course) and government speeches that have sign language interpreters — but they still need more.

Animated image of a woman saying "deaf understand hearing" in ASL.

A GIF showing one of the prototypes in action — the consumer product won’t have a wireframe, obviously.Image Credits: Slait.ai

Their intention is to make the platform available to the deaf and ASL learner communities, who hopefully won’t mind their use of the system being turned to its improvement.

And naturally it could prove an invaluable tool in its present state, since the company’s translation model, even as a work in progress, is still potentially transformative for many people. With the amount of video calls going on these days and likely for the rest of eternity, accessibility is being left behind — only some platforms offer automatic captioning, transcription, summaries, and certainly none recognize sign language. But with SLAIT’s tool people could sign normally and participate in a video call naturally rather than using the neglected chat function.

“In the short term, we’ve proven that 200 word models are accessible and our results are getting better every day,” said SLAIT’s Evgeny Fomin. “In the medium term, we plan to release a consumer facing app to track sign language. However, there is a lot of work to do to reach a comprehensive library of all sign language gestures. We are committed to making this future state a reality. Our mission is to radically improve accessibility for the Deaf and hard of hearing communities.”

From left, Evgeny Fomin, Dominic Domènech, and Bill Vicars.Image Credits: Slait.ai

He cautioned that it will not be totally complete — just as translation and transcription in or to any language is only an approximation, the point is to provide practical results for millions of people, and a few hundred words goes a long way toward doing so. As data pours in, new words can be added to the vocabulary, and new multi-gesture phrases as well, and performance for the core set will improve.

Right now the company is seeking initial funding to get its prototype out and grow the team beyond the founding crew. Fomin said they have received some interest but want to make sure they connect with an investor who really understands the plan and vision.

When the engine itself has been built up to be more reliable by the addition of more data and the refining of the machine learning models, the team will look into further development and integration of the app with other products and services. For now the product is more of a proof of concept, but what a proof it is — with a bit more work SLAIT will have leapfrogged the industry and provided something that deaf and hearing people both have been wanting for decades.


Startups – TechCrunch