3 Lessons Social Media Marketers Can Learn From “Game of Thrones”

If you haven’t seen Game of Thrones let’s assume you’re a Neanderthal that’s recently been thawed by scientists and you’ve just now discovered what a computer is. If that doesn’t fit your description, then I’m let’s assume you’ve at least heard of arguably the most talked about show on television. Not only has Game of Thrones taught me life lessons like “never hold the door” or “brace yourself, winter is coming” but it’s also taught me a few things about social media marketing. Below are just a few pieces of advice that can be gleaned from the show.

  1. Less is More

SPOILER ALERT! This past weekend marked the death of one of the most beloved characters on Game of Thrones, the giant, yet innocent, Hodor. Why was he such a fan favorite? Not because he cracked numerous jokes and witty quips. Not because he weaved elegant tales either. Hodor repeated one line throughout the shows five seasons, “Hodor.” Not the most talkative fellow, Hodor captured the hearts of his audience members, just like you need to capture the attention of your social media audience. There’s no need for embellished words or exaggerated statements. Keep things simple. Not only will they appreciate the fact that you’re speaking to them as a peer, it will be easier to get your point across. Social media is about being concise while still being able to capture the attention of your audience. Use short phrases, eye-catching pictures or videos, and keywords that will resonate with your readers.

  1. Keep Them Coming Back

It’s no coincidence that Game of Thrones has lasted six seasons and has garnered almost 200 industry awards. Game of Thrones has changed the way we view Sundays. Instead of dwelling on impending doom that we call Monday, we’re dwelling on the impending doom of our favorite character. Fans expect to be left wanting more after every episode, and you must do the same with your social media posts. Weekly columns or series’ will help gain a steady following to your page. Link backs to other social media outlets or even your home website will also drive traffic towards your brand. Not only do you want to catch the eye of your audience, but you also want to keep them coming back. Make sure to also post frequently, but not so much that it becomes an annoyance to your audience. Game of Thrones is great to watch weekly, but marathons everyday would get out of hand and diminish the quality of the show.

  1. Create and Grow Your Community and Brandb7735d69ece7b1202835d403a539430f

One of the most exciting things about Game of Thrones is the community the rabid GoT fans have created. Whether it’s viewing parties, themed dinners, or costume contests, Game of Thrones is no longer a book series or TV show, it’s a brand. Clothing, video games, glassware, are just a few of the Game of Thrones branded products that have invaded stores everywhere. Online communities have contributed fan theories, fan fiction, and other forms of content. The writers of the show regularly hold Q&A sessions via Twitter and Facebook as well to make Game of Thrones an inclusive experience. To grow your brand you need to show your audience why they should want to pay attention to you. You can start this by engaging your audience and interacting with your readers. Reach out to get their opinions and feedback, thank those with compliments, and acknowledge complaints voiced by others. Transparency is important, you want to show your audience that you’re not out to deceive or trick them. Having a strong online community behind your brand can take it to the next level.

 

 

I/O 2016: Google’s Newest Releases and Tech

Although Google is influential to many industries worldwide, the company continually shakes things up in the digital marketing sphere. With the Google’s 2016 I/O conference coming to a close, everyone from developers and marketers to consumers and futurists have something to talk about.

Expanding on its current platforms and introducing new ones, this year’s I/O conference has set an interesting precedent for AI, VR, and other integrative, potentially disruptive technologies.

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Google CEO, Sundar Pichai

As the first keynote given by Google’s latest CEO, Sundar Pichai, there are more than enough takeaway points to start shaping the world of digital marketing for the coming year.

Perhaps the most significant announcement is the revelation of Google’s response to Siri, Alexa, and Cortana, known for now as their “assistant.”

In a recent post, we discussed the rise of voice searches and the shift of traffic as a result. Now, it’s obvious that Google is poised to integrate this interactive technology with everything from messaging apps to their newest device called Google Home.

The device will take full advantage of Google’s assistant to enter the same market of Amazon’s Echo, a voice-activated home device capable for placing orders for pizza, an Uber, or providing quick searches via WiFi. What differentiates Google Home is its search prowess, aimed at providing deeper, more contextual answers than its competitors.

So far it seems like a reasonable selling point considering the company’s advances in machine learning, artificial neural networks, and an ongoing enhancement of their analytics.

Deep Linking and Instant Applications

One of the more surprising features of this I/O 2016 is the introduction of Android Instant Apps. Now instead of requiring users to download mobile apps to their phones, Google has found a way to access certain features within applications on the fly.

Using deep-linking technology, the company says developers won’t have to build new apps in order to reach customers who may not otherwise download them. Using a source code from Google, specific content will be accessible via clickable URLs.

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This move will help marketers who haven’t achieved wide downloads, but whose products and services are desirable and are found mostly through the mobile web instead of apps.

Essentially, if marketers gain significant engagement as a result of these instant apps, they will be more inclined to focus on mobile web searches – a place where Google prevails.

So far, this new format for mobile applications has been tested with a few partners, including Buzzfeed, Hotel Tonight, and B&H.

In addition to unveiling Google Home and its assistant technology, two apps, Allo and Duo promised to make use of this AI software to expand and enhance consumer messaging and video chats.

What does this mean for the digital marketing?

As we continually try to evolve our content to reach our targeted audience, the prospects of artificially intelligent search engines and voice assistants only magnify the complexity of the task. Where keywords and phrases had prevailed, now natural language processing is beginning to take over.

It’s clear that Google continues to write its mobile playbook to improve and increase the use of the mobile web. This is bound to create an interesting dynamic between app developers and marketing campaigns as the two shift and share Google’s Android Instant Apps for a shot at higher engagement.

 

To catch up on the highlights from the conference, check out this video from The Verge.

 

A Social Plague: Will Google Ever Master Social?

Google’s announcement of yet another social media tool called, Spaces, has left me (and probably many other Google fans) a little skeptical. With a company as large and successful as Google, it is hard to find fault with anything they do. However, dating back to 2004, we counted 10 Google social platform fails including Dodgeball, Google Lively, and of course, Google Plus. If history is any indicator of Google’s chance for success in social, it could be said that Google may have 99 problems, and social is definitely one.

(In a hurry? Then check out our Google’s Social Fails infographic!)

Orkut

Orkut Logo

Named after its creator, former Google product manager OrkutBüyükkökten, Orkut was launched just 11 days before Facebook in January 2004. Even though at a point in time, it was one of the most visited sites in the countries of Brazil and India, Orkut just could not compete with Facebook’s massive user acquisition. The Orkut site loaded slower and was not user-friendly. Redesigns and updates of the site made the user experience more complicated and eventually led to the loss of their user base. After a ten-year run, Orkut was officially shut down on September 30, 2014.

Dodgeball.com

Dodgeball.com, May 2005 - February 2009

Dodgeball.com was cofounded in 2003 by Dennis Crowley, who would eventually go on to build Foursquare. Dodgeball was a location-based social network that allowed users to share their location with their friends via text messaging. Google bought it in May 2005, but by 2007, Crowley left saying, “the whole experience was incredibly frustrating.” In February of 2009, Dodgeball was shut down for its successor, Google Latitude.

Jaiku

Jaiku Logo

Jaiku was a microblogging platform that could have been Google’s Twitter. In fact, it was actually launched shortly before Twitter in 2006 and Google purchased the company in October 2007. Unfortunately, Google neglected Jaiku, failing to provide updates and support. Because of this, users mass-migrated over to Twitter and Jaiku eventually became stagnant. Google stop providing support for Jaiku in 2009 and made the software open source, but it did not help and Jaiku was officially shut down in January of 2012.

Google Friend Connect

Google Friend Connect Logo

Launched in May 2008, Google Friend Connect was a web widget that would add a “dash of social” to your website. It would use third-party sites to allow users to share information through messaging, photos, and videos. You could use existing accounts from Google, Yahoo, AOL or OpenID to sign in which made it easy for nearly anyone to use. With the arrival of Google Plus, Friend Connect was shut down for all non-Blogger sites March 1, 2012, and for Blogger sites on January 11, 2016.

Google Lively

Google Lively Logo

 

Google wanted a web-based application that could compete with SecondLife so they introduced Google Lively. It was a 3D virtual world where users could customize avatars and “decorate” a room with photos from Picasa, a Google photo service, or videos from YouTube.

It was not really a SecondLife competitor as there was not one single world where users could interact, but users could chat with other avatars and interact with objects. All the items in Lively were free, giving users no sense of value, whereas, on SecondLife, items could be bought and sold, creating a reason for users to continue using the site. Google Lively lasted just 6 months before Google discontinued the service by the end of December 2008.

Google Latitude

Google Latitude Logo

After shutting down Dodgeball, Google introduced Google Latitude in February 2008. This was another attempt at a location-based social application where users could view others or share their location with their friends. It was available for iOS, Blackberry OS, Android and more. The service was eventually discontinued in August 2013 because of the Google Plus Location Sharing feature.

Google Wave

Google Wave Logo

Google Wave was released to the general public in May 2009 and was meant to be the ultimate collaboration tool. It was a communication tool that combined the use of email, instant messaging, wikis, and social networking. Software extensions expanded the range of feature that could be performed including spell checking or translation services. The service would be stop being developed in 2010 for Vic Gundotra and team to prepare for Google Plus. Google Wave was deleted in April 2012.

Aardvark

Aardcark Search Engine Logo

Created in early 2008, Google bought Aardvark in February 2010 with the intention to create a social search engine. Aardvark connected users with friends and friends-of-friends to answer questions. Essentially, it was a knowledge market. When a question was asked, Aardvark would search user profiles, looking for information relevant to the question being asked, to find a user that might be able to answer. In September 2011, Google killed many of their apps and Aardvark was one of them.

Google Buzz

Google Buzz logo

Designed to compete with Facebook and Twitter, Google Buzz was a social network that integrated with many other apps and networks to allow users to share links, photos, videos, status updates, messages, and comments. It launched in February 2010 and Google executives said it was meant to bridge the gap between work and play. But Google’s lack of concern for user privacy led to lawsuits in 2010.  The Electronic Frontier Foundation wrote, “these problems arose because Google attempted to overcome its market disadvantage in competing with Twitter and Facebook by making a secondary use of your information.” A settlement was eventually reached and Google paid $8.5 million to fund groups that promote privacy education on the web. In October 2011, Google announced they would discontinue the service, and it was stopped in December 2011 for Google Plus.

Google+

Amidst a lot of hype and fanfare, Google released Google Plus saying that current online social tools were too rigid and described the social networking scene as “awkward” and “broken.” Google Plus was supposed to “fix” everything and by the time it launched in December 2011, was positioned to be the “Facebook killer.” However, Google Plus did anything but kill Facebook.

By 2012, Google+ was a ghost town with inactivity. Larry Page, co-creator of the network, kept saying the site had 90 million users, but that only technically true. All new users of Google’s services were created a Google+ profile when they signed up. At a point in time, to be able to use YouTube’s services like uploading a video, creating a channel, or even commenting on another video, a user had to have a Google Plus profile.Google Plus Logo

In 2014, Vic Gundotra, the other Google Plus co-creator who was previously part of the Google Wave team, left the company immediately. With that, many companies and people knew that Google Plus was failing in its original goal. Though there has not been an official statement from Google discontinuing the Google Plus Service, it is only a matter of time. By March 2015, the company already moved away from the Google Plus branding, splitting it into two separate stand-alone apps: Photos and Streams. By July 2015, the break-up officially began as Google Plus was split from YouTube.

Audience Engagement: Building Relationships on Social Media

Most social media platforms were originally created to allow people to build and maintain relationships with others using the same platforms. Then businesses and organizations of all kinds took to social media networks like Facebook and Twitter, realizing it’s potential for promoting their brand. A short time after this realization, many brands’ Facebook pages and Twitters became very sales-oriented or otherwise spammy. Unfortunately, this is the exact opposite of what most audiences want to see in their news feeds, and it often leads to an unlike or unfollow.

If a large part of your audience unfollows or unlikes your brand, this could lead to a loss in sales, leads and more depending upon your business’s industry. So we’ve compiled a list of rules to follow to keep your audience engaged on social media, and to continue building long-lasting relationships for your brand.

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Post original content.
The most important thing for your brand to do on any given social media platform is to post original content. Your social media page, whether Twitter, Facebook or anything else, is nothing without an active audience, and your audience wants to read original content – it’s as simple as that.

Post original content REGULARLY.
While it may not be reasonable to expect 5 posts per day, make sure you’re posting regularly throughout the week. It’s recommended that you post at least three times each week. Posting often will help keep your brand in the news feeds of your audience, and keep them engaged on your page.

Be responsive.
Depending on the amount of likes or followers your brand has, it can be difficult to respond to everyone. Despite this, make sure you are responding to some comments, mentions, etc. A great rule of thumb is to respond to the really good comments, and the really bad comments. For example – if someone is upset with your brand and ranting about it on your Facebook page, respond in an apologetic manner, and ask if they’d like to continue this conversation via private messages or even a phone call. This tells the individual that you’re accessible, and willing to address their issue, and it shows the rest of your audience that you’re willing to fix problems.

On the other hand, if an individual is talking about how much they loved your newest product, thank them in a sincere manner. A great way to thank a loyal customer for supporting your business is by offering a coupon. Other’s will be encouraged to share their positive experiences with your brand if they see it may be rewarded.

Share content relevant to your brand.
The keys to sharing relevant content are simple: know your brand and know your audience. First, make sure all content shared is either about your brand or relevant to your brands field. For example, if your brand is within the healthcare field, don’t share something about puppies (no matter how tempting and cute it is). Next, understand who your audience is on that individual platform. Let’s say the most active people on your Facebook are between the ages of 20 and 30, so you’d want to post/share things that are relevant to that age group.

Establish and maintain your brand’s voice.
This is very important for businesses that have more than one person posting on its social media platforms. To avoid confusion and provide consistency, set guidelines for your brand’s voice based upon the audience you’re trying to appeal to, and be sure that all employees adhere to the guidelines. Knowing your audience will help you decide whether you want to appear more serious, silly, professional or personal.

Following these simple social media rules will help keep your audience engaged, happy and into your brand.

How Voice Recognition is Changing SEO

Growing up in the era of the personal computer, you can probably recall a hilarious period of time when text to speech programs would blurt out whatever you could type into the entry box. A digitized, nasally sounding voice spoke back unthinkingly, simply crafting sounds out of data provided.

Now, voice assistant technologies are finally making that speech more of a conversation, especially in the world of digital content marketing.

Apples’s Siri, Microsoft’s Cortana, and Google Now have been leading this digital dialogue, allowing people to bypass the keyboard (more likely the touchscreen) and speak their search queries however they conceive of them.

Speech recognition technologies have been around for years, but thanks to advances in computing power, machine learning techniques, and natural language processing (NLP) these previously novel features are ready to make a huge impact.

An Industry Responding to Assistive Voice

 

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Google Now provides users with the ability to voice search anything on the web.

Google reported that word error rates have decreased to just 8% in April compared to 25% in recent years. Additionally, research conducted by MindMeld, a company specializing in artificially intelligent software solutions found that 60% of people using voice assistants took up the habit in the past 12 months.

Projections from comScore contend that voice assistants will drive nearly 50% of all web searches by 2020. That’s an incredible amount of traffic, all optimized for the human voice, instead of a keyboard.

So what exactly does this mean for SEO and content marketers?

Voice assistants technologies deliver their results through first interpreting human language, but more importantly contextualizing the information being spoken. By learning to understand the user’s intention for the search, a more satisfying result can be produced.

Eventually, deep learning through immense data sets will allow computers to not only make connections based on the natural patterns of human speech, but also begin predicting future searches based on co-occurring key terms.

This means that user behavior could soon be the single most important factor to consider when optimizing content for online applications.

Turning Connections into Conversations

The first step in writing content for the era of voice-assistance means making greater connections within any post or page. As computers start to understand what a search is about, they will be more focused on contextualizing a search within the semantics provided by the user.

For example, if a search reads something like ‘find me a nice restaurant nearby,’ the search engine will learn to associate quality or a 5-star dining experience with places to eat in the area. Inherently, the word “nice” is not entirely descriptive of the desired result; however it constitutes the way people naturally speak.

The trick is getting content to reflect what a user means rather than what they say.

Learning User Characteristics and Behavior

In addition to learning the semantic meaning of a search, computers will increase their understanding of content by getting an idea of who their users are and how they behave.

User behavior will be increasingly understood by asking:

» Who is making a certain query / how many of them click a certain link?
» Did they return to the search results?
» Were they satisfied by the links displayed by their query?

Collecting this data in terms of voice searches will influence everything from page ranking to the actual content present per link.

Predictive Analysis and the Future of Keywords

As computers understand the intended meaning of a search, they will come to know what a user might look for next, ultimately predicting future searches from past behavior.

(Image Courtesy of Search Engine Land)

(Image Courtesy of Search Engine Land)

This means that queries are likely to be satisfied based on the how well a search engine can interpret context rather than a copywriter’s ability to insert the right keyword phrases and links.

Of course this isn’t to say that keywords are entirely useless – it’s quite the contrary. Keyword research is still a great way to find how phrases and queries are changing around a particular subject. Really this is still the groundwork for much of what AI will accomplish by itself eventually, though for now the job of the copywriter is still relevant to a digital world where satisfying human understanding is the main goal.

Creating Content for a Voice Assisted World

While it’s easy to be intimidated by the impending rise of AI, there are still things human content marketers can do to reach a site’s goals, as voice searches become the norm:

» Always ask yourself what questions might bring a user to your site.
» How will they speak these questions?
» Is this site satisfying those queries?
» Are visitors likely to click back if they don’t find complete information?
» Is this site optimized for mobile use, and in what context do people visit the page?
» Can this page support casually phrased voice searches as well as more in-depth queries?

Preparing for the next innovations in SEO is key to staying afloat in a constantly shifting sea of information. Whether you’re chatting up Cortana, speaking to Siri or gabbing with Google, it’s clear we are only going to get more comfortable talking to our electronics — and more importantly having them talkback!

Just10: The New and Secure Social Media Site

Last week I finished my 3-part blog series regarding the ad blocking war between consumers and publishers. This week, I leave publishers alone and instead shift my scope to look at how one company is fighting invasive ads and trackers found on social media. A new social media platform has recently been created due to the rising trend of web users employing ad blocking, anti-tracking, and anti-cookie software. Canadian privacy advocate Frederick Ghahramani offers users a newly launched, completely ad-free, private social media platform named Just10.

A screenshot of a Just10 profile featuring a cover photo and profile picture.

A view of a Just10 profile looks like many other social media sites with a personal URL, customizable cover photo, profile photo, and a place to post updates.

A safe space

Launched on a global scale in February of this year, Just10 is a new one-of-a-kind online social experience. Beyond the privacy protection the site offers, (we’ll explore them in just a bit) there are no app pages, no bots, no company profiles, and no suggested brands or pages to follow. Ghahramani wants users to “have a safe space online where they can freely express their ideas and opinions, without fear of being profiled and tracked by advertisers looking to exploit their data, hiring managers looking to profile their personalities or even jealous exes.”

On the Just10 blog, they promise no ads ever. They also boast no tracking, no scraping, no snooping and no third-party data brokers or analytics. This site is not for brands, companies or apps. Just10 offers private profiles and will delete everything after 10 days in an effort to protect against hackers and security breaches. Though still in beta, the site says post-beta they will offer full end-to-end encryption. Users do not need to worry about anyone seeing their profile that they do not want to, and they don’t need to worry about their information being used against them by employers, criminals, or hackers.

Quality, not quantity

Another feature that makes Just10 very different that other social media sites, is that their emphasis is for users to maintain closer relationships, not gain followers or friends. For that reason, users are only able to have 10 friends on the site.

Just10 post reaction module, featuring Meactions.

Like other social media platforms, comment or react using emojis. Unlike other social media platforms, create your own “Meactions” using your own face!

To some of us with hundreds or thousands of followers, this can be shocking upon first hearing it. But a study done by the University of Oxford revealed that no matter how many online followers or friends a person has, on average, a person only has 4 real friends.

Like other social media sites, you can share updates and send private messages to a single user. Just10 also offers a Meactions feature. While friends can react to posts using Just10’s own emojis, they can also upload or take pictures of their own face to use as a reaction, or Meaction. There are few features as the goal of Just10 is to keep a clean and simple interface for you and your friends or family. While more features are expected to roll out, they want to get to a point where they will no longer need to add new features.

Part of Just10’s launch campaign features a fun video that shows what it’s like when you overshare information online:

This might be the first kind of secure, ad-less social network, but with any success, it surely won’t be the last. To join Just10, you can sign up online, or download their app available in the App Store, Google Play Store, and BlackBerry World. If you’re tired of ads on social media, online privacy is important to you, and folllowers are not, give this social network a try and don’t forget to tell your friends—but only 10!

SEO Strategies that are Killing your Rankings

Most marketers know the benefits of successful search engine optimization strategies, but every now and then, you’ll come across an individual that that claims “SEO is dead”. While not dead, staying up to date with the newest ways to build website rankings can be a difficult feat. Nonetheless, those that claim that this process is dead are probably referring to the old, spammy, and essentially aggressive SEO strategies.

These strategies are called Black Hat SEO. Back in the day (like five or so years ago), what we now refer to as black hat SEO was the quickest and easiest way to boost your website rankings. In 2012, Google threw everyone through a loop and starting penalizing a lot of websites that were using these strategies. Shockingly enough, many people are still using some of them today.

Here’s a list of SEO strategies that are probably killing your website rankings:

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Spam Comments: Do you ever drop your link into the comment section of blogs, news articles or anything else with an area for comments?

Key Word Overload: We understand that you’re trying to rank for a specific word or words, but throwing that word into every sentence multiple times looks and sounds incredibly awkward.

Bulk Directory Linking: Submitting your site to hundreds of irrelevant link directories, and depending on the directory, your website rankings can be negatively affected.

Exact Match Domain: While this doesn’t negatively impact your website’s rankings, it’s really no longer deemed important that your key word is located in your site’s domain name.

Invisible Key Words: Let’s say your website background is white, so you throw your key word up there hundreds of times in white, so that Google sees it, but those visiting your website don’t. Google was not happy about this one, and penalized most sites that were using this practice.

Link Networks: This is a domain or multiple domains and their only purpose is to provide a different domain with backlinks. These are typically owned by the same individual or company.

Buying Links: Some sites will offer to provide links for an amount of money, but this is pretty risky business. More often than not, these are sketchy sites that will actually hurt your SEO.

Use of Irrelevant Key Words: Don’t publish irrelevant content on your site. If you’re trying to rank for words like “hotels”, don’t be post things that don’t have anything to do with hotels or the hospitality industry.

Cloaking: This is presenting the website user with completely different content that is shown to the search engines that are crawling the site, and is considered a “deceptive SEO strategy”.

So when, Google caught on, most of us became aware that these strategies could be the death of our website rankings. But, if you’ve been in a cave the past four years, and are still posting invisible key words all over your site, please STOP – your website rankings will thank you.