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Personalization Is The New… Everything

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There is no denying it, the age of the personalized web has arrived and it is here to stay. Early social networks and the rise of Big Data have certainly been instrumental in transforming how we interact, communicate and digest content. In fact, personalization has crept so far into every facet of our lives that if a TV show, recommended article, or targeted advertisement isn’t relevant or representative of our interests, it might as well be non-existent.

We’re living in a world where we are constantly connected and sharing information 24/7. While this connectedness and open flow of information is what enables personalization, it comes with a caution sign for brands. The traditional idea of privacy has gone out the window and we must define new terms and conditions for how we navigate our digital lives. For marketers this means walking a thin line between engaging consumers in hyper personalized ways and being creepy. We recently explored this topic taking a deep dive into the benefits and potential hazards as personalization continues to evolve.

Personalization hasn’t only changed our definition of privacy, but its heightened consumer expectations. Just take a look at how it has changed the way we consume entertainment — we binge watch entire TV show seasons in one sitting. Gone are the days of anxiously awaiting the next episode of Dawson’s Creek, terrified to miss it for fear of waiting an entire week to catch up.  DVRs may have eradicated that horrible experience, but personalization has forever changed TV consumption as we know it. Netflix was one of the first to leverage user data to package and deliver content that feeds our all-you-can-eat appetite for entertainment. What’s more Netflix, Apple TV and Amazon Fire TV look at user data to serve relevant recommendations not just for personalization sake, but because it is the standard experience consumers expect.

However, TV and online video are only at the infancy of personalization, as we continue to see and hear interesting developments in the space. In fact, it may not be long before ads address consumers personally, in real-time as they watch their favorite online videos. It is too soon to tell how far brands will go before consumer’s pull back and draw a line in the sand when it comes to their ‘privacy’, but one thing is for certain: gone are the days of generic ads, mass targeted messages and poor user experiences.

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May 29, 2014 - 1 month ago

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Take a Painkiller For Your Mobile Headache

Now that smartphones are tied to 25% of car crashes in the US, it’s probably safe to say we’re hooked on these glowing rectangular devices. Smartphones have become our on-the-go source for entertainment and news, as well as our shopping companion, alarm clock, and personal assistant. In fact, U.S. adults spend on average 34 hours per month browsing the web on their smartphones, with 82 percent of that time being spent in mobile apps.

It’s clear that mobile is not only where we live, but also where advertisers must focus their resources in order to connect with consumers — so when we came across a recent article on pain points for mobile marketers, it got us thinking about some of the headaches that our friends in the industry have shared with us. We’ve narrowed these down to the top three sources of discomfort and have offered our advice for minimizing the frustration.

Navigating Mobile Without The Cookie Monster

Unlike on desktop, cookies are simply non-existent on mobile. This means that browser-based tracking tactics don’t apply to smartphones, so when consumers traverse from app to app or app to browser, advertisers are unable to connect the dots via cookies. Smartphone manufacturers, like Apple and Google, are aware of this frustration and have taken a stab at developing unique identifiers that are placed directly into the device. However, this solution isn’t complete, because it only offers intel on people using those specific branded phones. But don’t just take our word for it, the cookie conundrum is a point of contention for many.

If you’re going through cookie withdrawal, don’t fret! Start using social IDs to follow customers across mobile browsers and apps to better understand their behavior. Social and mobile are so intertwined today that we spent more than half of our time on mobile in social apps. Social IDs are not only universal across devices, but they are more integrated into your digital activity than you might realize. Take a look at the apps you use daily — Spotify, MapMyFitness, QuizApps, for example. With these apps, and many others, you often log in through your social networks. Thus, social IDs are the loophole for mobile marketers and a viable solution to cookies.

Using Mobile Location To Your Brand’s Advantage

We’ve all heard of location-based advertising, but is your brand using location to its full advantage? Many brands, especially those in retail, use location to target consumers based on proximity to their nearest brick-and-mortar location. While this is a great tactic, the problem is that not everyone is honest about their location digitally. We don’t mean that people are lying; it’s just that location can lend more to interest or affinity than an actual point on a map.

We’ve termed this “geographic drift.” Too few marketers are looking beyond the definition of location to consider the difference between actual location and perceived location. A great example of geographic drift can be found right outside major metropolitan areas like New York City, Los Angeles and Chicago. Many people may self-identify as being from those cities when in fact they live and work in suburbs several hours away. So that location-based offer for a yoga class in San Francisco? Yup, that was actually sent to a mom who lives in Marin.

The solution, of course, is to fold interest data into your mobile-location strategy. After all, the more complete picture of your target audience, the better you can engage with them and build lasting relationships.

Choosing the Best Native Route For Your Brand

We’ve heard about ‘native’ ad nauseam— everyone is doing it, so shouldn’t you? Up until now, native ads have proven to be a great way to engage consumers without disrupting their digital experience, but this form of advertising is still in its infancy. One factor that is weighing on marketers’ minds is whether to stick with more traditional paid native placements — partnering with Forbes or Buzzfeed, for example — or to journey down the self-produced road. Many brands, especially consumer packaged goods, typically avoid creating their own native ads, instead favoring paid partnerships. Yet big brands like Chipotle have excelled in developing their own content with an integrated message that feels authentic. While paid placements may offer more channel flexibility, it comes at the cost of sacrificing the control and transparency that’s associated with developing and publishing on your environment.

Case in point: Chipotle put a lot of muscle into developing an iOS game accompanied byThe Scarecrow, and all told, the video received more than 6M views and the game had more than 250,000 downloads. By becoming a producer in their own right, Chipotle was able to develop a multi-channel campaign that educated the public about the pitfalls of processed food, all while discretely promoting their brand. The time and resources put into self-production were justified by the end result: an engaging, lasting experience that kept consumers coming back for more.

For marketers struggling to determine the right native path for their brand, there are a couple of factors to keep in mind. Not everyone can follow in Chipotle’s footsteps, as a campaign of that scale demands the resources to create and maintain an app or video portal over a long period of time. Alternatively, paid partnerships not only offer greater flexibility and an abundance of channels, but they are better suited for short-term campaigns. The best advice we can give is to manage expectations. Be realistic about the lifecycle of your native ambitions, and build an “end of life” strategy into your plans if long-term upkeep isn’t in your purview.

Now that’s something for the pain.

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May 20, 2014 - 2 months ago

Posted In trends technology

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What’s The Amazon Phone Really About?

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We’re constantly keeping an eye on interesting developments in the tech world, so when news leaked of Amazon’s foray into the smartphone market, it caught our attention. The phone is rumored to have some pretty nifty features, including 3-D functionality, but what really piqued our interest was Amazon’s motivation behind developing the phone. With Apple and Samsung owning 49 percent of the market, does Amazon even stand a chance? And if that’s the case, there must be more here than meets the eye, right? While only time will unveil Amazon’s true motivations, we’ve come up with some speculations of our own in the meantime.

Is Amazon Testing a New Market?

We’re all curious to see how Amazon’s 3-D functionality is going to pan out. Is this going to be game changer, or will it go the way of 3-D movies — cool for about 2 hours in a theater and then you’re over it. Talks of 3-D capabilities have been floating around for a while now, and perhaps Amazon aims to lead the 3-D arms race. This first phase in 3-D functionality could be the tipping point for other opportunities. Amazon could use this as a testing ground for new ways to market and showcase products creating an entirely new way to shop and engage on mobile.

Is This Amazon’s Move to Scale Fresh?

Fresh, the company’s online grocery service, is a promising venture that — while still in its infancy — has been rolled out in select cities like Seattle, Los Angeles and San Francisco. While online shopping may be booming, door-to-door grocery delivery numbers aren’t as promising. Amazon has taken an initial step to grow adoption with its handheld ordering device, but to scale and grow Fresh, direct access via mobile may be the better solution. The convenience factor could be a boon for Fresh members who could update shopping lists and order groceries on their commute to work or standing in line for their afternoon latte. Connecting Fresh with an Amazon-branded phone could allow Amazon to roll out a national service. Additionally, mobile would offer a channel for serving recommendations on goods and special offers exclusive to Fresh members.

Is This Amazon’s Big Play As Publisher?

The world’s largest online retailer continues to grow its suite of devices with the Kindle Fire and Fire TV. Both products have been relatively successful, but as Jeff Bezos has hinted, it’s not because of sales. The money isn’t in the device — it’s in people consuming content on the device. From a content perspective, adding a smartphone to Amazon’s repertoire is a logical next step.

The phone will give Amazon a direct channel to those customers who are hungry for more of their favorite videos, and when 22 percent of all content is consumed on mobile, mobile is a good place for Amazon to be. Take a look at Instant Video, for example: it’s available on iOS, but not on Android. If content distribution is Amazon’s prerogative, than having a phone that offers a unified experience with its other products and services is critical. Introducing an Amazon-branded phone will further enable Amazon to deliver snackable pieces of content, as well as special content that’s exclusive to its growing suite of devices.

Is Amazing Tightening its Grip on Commerce?

Since Apple and Samsung dominate the smartphone market, it’s unlikely that Amazon is entering the space to squeeze the giants out. It’s more likely that Amazon is making a strategic move to become an everyday fixture in consumers’ lives by ensuring that people use its products and buy its media.

An Amazon-branded phone is another way to tie everything — Amazon Prime, Fresh, Kindle Bookstore, Music Cloud, Video Streaming etc. — closer together. One-tap access to all of Amazon’s products and services from a mobile device keeps consumers locked into to the Amazon ecosystem. Another bonus is the data! Mobile will open access to a treasure trove of invaluable consumer information ripe for serving relevant ads, offers and content. With mobile, Amazon could potentially identify a consumer in a Best Buy store, serve them a better deal and ultimately drive them out of the store and into Amazon’s welcoming arms.

Let us know if you have any other theories on Amazon’s new phone in the comments below.

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April 29, 2014 - 2 months ago

Posted In technology trends amazon

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When a Mom Is More Than a Mom: People Are Complex

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Loved seeing your daughter’s soccer photos on LinkedIn yesterday! And thanks for endorsing me for Project Management on Tumblr.

Wait, that’s wrong. Kid photos go on Facebook. Resume stuff goes on LinkedIn. And gifs from Sunday’s Game of Thrones go on Tumblr.

Different Social Networks for Different Things

You know instinctively to use different social networks for different things. Maybe you don’t use that many social networks (though we encourage you to try Snapchat, just once, because it’s fun), but if you’re online more than a couple hours a week you probably use more than one.

For example, most people reading this article probably rely on LinkedIn for business, Facebook for family, and Twitter for news. A scrappy few among you may also use Path for friends or Pinterest for collections or Snapchat for those random thoughts. The fact that you follow Recode on Twitter and you “like” Angry Birds on Facebook means something. It means that while you might be the same person wherever you go, you say and do different things in each place.

When a Mom Is More Than a Mom

Okay, social data company. What does this have to do with marketing? It means that researching our audiences often reveals associations that we expect and some we didn’t expect.

It means that some of the same audience members show up in different personas. Moms are not only moms. Some moms plant flowers. Some of them love TV. Some of them listen to heavy metal.

For our customers, sometimes it means we’ll suggest the most common related personas for an audience, to help broaden targeting. And it also means that the campaign wrap-up report sometimes highlights a surprising new trend for a target audience. (Hey, CPG marketer! Next time you think about including “Home Automation” in your target or your ad creative!)

People Are Jewels

When you work with interest graph targeting as opposed to demographic targeting, you quickly learn that people have many sides, like jewels have facets. Rather than let ourselves be overwhelmed by their complexity, we should appreciate all we can learn from people and their varied interests.

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April 10, 2014 - 3 months ago

Posted In trends Targeting tumblr Pinterest facebook Twitter foursquare

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Three New Digital Ad Developments You Gotta Check Out

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There’s always something new in digital advertising, which is a big reason why we love working in this industry. From deciding which trends are worth following to testing out newer platforms like Vine and Snapchat, we’re constantly learning from innovative brand teams and re-evaluating the most effective ways to reach the right audience. In the spirit of sharing new ideas, here are three strategies that caught our eye recently:

1) Mike’s Hard Lemonade quits TV

As the warm months roll around, alcohol brands will begin running commercials that position cold beverages as the staple of an American summer. Everyone, that is, except Mike’s Hard Lemonade. 

The flavored malt beverage recently announced that it is bowing out of the traditional TV arms race and is instead shifting all its dollars to digital advertising. No longer interested in duking it out with competitors like Bud Light Lime and Smirnoff Ice over televised ads, Mike’s will instead be making a splash on sites like Woven, Vevo, Buzzfeed, Discovery, the Weather Company, The Onion and Complex Media.

We’ve heard ad nauseam about how budgets for TV campaigns will start moving to digital – indeed, this is one of the goals of the upcoming Digital Content NewFronts – but the examples of brands actually going all-in on digital are few and far between. Mike’s is blazing a trail that has been long-heralded as the future of advertising, and we’ll be keeping a close watch on the results of their efforts. 

2) Snapchat wins over McDonald’s, Taco Bell, and Grubhub 

While Facebook and Instagram continue to reign supreme as the most-used social networks, Snapchat comes in a close third, counting 46% of US teens and young adults as users. Much like Vine and Instagram Video, Snapchat has become the new social darling for brands to try out – and while it doesn’t offer traditional ad buys, marketers are experimenting with ways to promote product launches, drive sales and offer discounts through the app.  

For starters, McDonald’s has been using the “stories” feature to unveil new products, and TacoBell employed the app to introduce its new Beefy Crunch Burrito last May. But some of the most creative snaps to date have been from GrubHub, which uses the social platform to share promo codes and contests. Last month, the online delivery service began snapping daily scavenger hunts. Fans were invited send back a drawing of food for a chance to win $50 in GrubHub orders, and winners were selected at random (regardless of artistic talent).  

What’s interesting about these food companies’ use of Snapchat is that millennials and college-aged audiences don’t view the snaps as intrusive; on the contrary, a recent study by Sumpto revealed that nearly seven out of 10 college students said they would add a brand on Snapchat, with 67% citing potential discounts and promotions as the top reason. One-fifth specified that they would add a brand in order to receive humorous communications. 

3) UNICEF gets people off their phones, Heineken gets people out of their comfort zone

Some of the most creative campaigns we’ve seen recently focused on real world actions in lieu of digital engagement. UNICEF’s Tap Project challenged supporters to see how long they could go without using their phone to raise awareness about a much more serious commodity. For every 10 minutes in the month of March that participants refrained from touching their devices, Giorgio Armani Fragrances agreed to donate the equivalent of one day of clean water for a child in need. For this campaign, not taking action was the intended action – and while that seems counterintuitive, it’s a refreshing change of pace. 

Another example of action as its own form of content was Heineken’s “Departure Roulette.” In an encore performance, the beer company surprised folks who had tweeted about their first campaign and invited them to drop their plans and journey to a chance location. The resulting video was not only entertaining but also authentic – proving that just because we’re focused on digital doesn’t mean we can’t also find ways to engage with our audience in the real world. 

The common thread in all of these examples is that brands must think creatively in order to stand out in an increasingly crowded landscape – and often the best way to do that is to have a little fun. 

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April 9, 2014 - 3 months ago

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Social Media’s Ad Revenue Evolution: Jon Elvekrog on WSJ Digits

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Jon Elvekrog met with the Wall Street Journal “Digits” team to talk about Yahoo’s pending acquisition of video services network NDN.

Watch the video or read the transcript below.

Jon Elvekrog:

“There’s two really big points about NDN. First is video; obviously it’s a huge, growing market. And I think it’s an area where they had been underrepresented. Thry brought in Katie Couric, they’re trying to develop more of their assets, but this focus on video is a big opportunity for them. The second piece is this concept of going off-network. Clearly they don’t have huge video assets at Yahoo, Inc., but NDN gives them reach into the rest of the video world and allows them to scale their digital assets off-network.

“Social is another huge macro trend along with video, and for us the most compelling bit (and maybe the most important bit for Yahoo) is the data. Yahoo has Tumblr, their social network, but then there’s Facebook, and Twitter, Pinterest, huge other properties that they’re not going to be able to go out and buy, but that data, we enable advertisers to leverage that social data across various networks to build audiences at scale. And that’s a really powerful opportunity.

“[With regard to pre-roll advertising being annoying to users], everyone wants to jump right to the content. For us, one of the reasons we started 140 Proof was we thought that the idea of getting relevant content in front of people was a more enjoyable advertising experience. For example, pre-roll ads can actually be targeted to things that you’re interested in. It’s the spoonful of sugar that makes that ad go down a little bit easier.

“We fundamentally believe that social data, this idea of what you’re publicly sharing — whether it’s pinning a product on Pinterest, following someone on Twitter or liking something on Facebook — is this mesh that will give advertisers this hook into what people actually care about (their interests), as opposed to what demographic you are.

“Native, both in pre-roll format, and also something that is more sponsorship integrated into the video playing experience is a pretty positive thing for users. Again, we have a littleb it of a bias from a targeting perspective. The better you can get that content matched to the things you care about, that is a big win for advertisers.”

April 1, 2014 - 3 months ago

Posted In trends technology

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Publishers Are Feeling the Social Squeeze

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Publishers who don’t have access to social data are facing a growing challenge—social squeeze. When it comes to digital advertising market share, they are losing out to the likes of Facebook and Twitter.

AOL’s acquisition of Gravity in January shows that AOL knows it needs to make its ad offering more social. Likewise, Marissa Mayer’s recent statement that the interest graph is the future of understanding what consumers want shows that Yahoo is aware it has the same problem.

With Facebook recently laying claim to the second-largest share of digital advertising dollars in the country, this is actually every publisher’s challenge today. The cash flowing into social platforms is not new money being spent in digital for the first time—these dollars are coming from the pockets of existing publishers, and few are avoiding the social squeeze.

Publishers, then, must keep Facebook and Twitter from further encroaching on their home turf. The social companies have made their presence known far and wide—so how can publishers defend and grow their revenue when media buyers are increasingly buying into the power of social?

Just playing defense won’t cut it. Publishers have to change their game plan—the only way to compete with social is social. To do so, they’ll have to make three critical adjustments:

1. MAKE DATA MORE SOCIAL
As Mayer so accurately noted, understanding an individual’s interests allows for more personalization, which is great for consumers, and better ad targeting, which is great for advertisers.

At the confluence of these two are the publishers, who need both eyeballs and ad dollars. AOL’s intention is to use Gravity’s data as a proxy for interests, which shows effort in the right direction, and Apple may be taking a similar step with its acquisition of Topsy.

Social data gains more value the closer to the source you get—that is, to individuals and to what they express about themselves on social platforms. It can be used to make recommendations to people on content sites driving an alignment of content and advertising to make the advertising more premium—or it can be used to ensure that ads appearing in many places will be relevant to the consumer. In this way, advertising can take on aspects of CRM.

2. MAKE ADS MORE EFFECTIVE
Ads must move away from the much loathed and widely ignored banner. Similarly, the word “native” is becoming one of those overused industry words that has accrued so many meanings that it’s meaningless.

We learn from social that ads in line with the content and with the same appearance and tone of the platform around it are very effective. Some publishers have dealt with dropping rates by adding more ads to each page, but that is unsustainable. Others have placed ads in whatever they can call a “stream” or a “feed,” but because there is no social targeting, they wind up with belly fat ads that are undesired by most audiences and, even worse, undermine the quality of the publisher.

Fewer ads of greater quality and relevance will drive rates back up because they are truly valuable.

3. MAKE A MORE CREDIBLE CLAIM ON BRAND SPENDING DOLLARS
Lastly, the real opportunity for publishers lies in capturing brand dollars. Action-based data and lookalike models that third party Big Data providers sell haven’t convinced brand advertisers to do their image-building work in digital—and they never will. While they may be comfortable with content alignment, that’s often difficult to scale via the Web.

Brands willing to build awareness online and in mobile will require a deep understanding of the real interests of the people on the other end of the ad server. And, interestingly enough, Twitter and Facebook don’t seem to have gone up to the plate swinging for brand dollars.

Facebook Exchange, Twitter Custom Audiences: these are retargeting techniques, and, while they are effective for driving action, they continue to leave much potential brand spending on the sidelines and keep new dollars out of digital’s reach.

If publishers can accomplish the first two points—making their data more social and their ads more appealing—then they’ve got a chance to bring in brand advertising in a much bigger way. Google’s new Custom Brand Exchanges are a step in that direction, as they’ve been reverse-engineered to capitalize on demand from brands and match them with premium inventory. Targeting audiences through social data with ads that they are interested in will expand the pool of inventory, whether served through exchanges or sold directly by publishers.

Some publishers have taken strong first steps toward understanding the competitive advantages that they should bring to the table. The social squeeze is avoidable—if you learn from social.

By 140 Proof CEO Jon Elvekrog.

This article originally appeared in Fast Company on 20 March 2014.

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March 28, 2014 - 3 months ago

Posted In facebook Twitter trends

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You Won’t Believe What This Jerk Thinks About Click Bait

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Click bait: the enticing headline that, like much fast food, smells great before you bite but leaves you with a bad taste in your mouth. Buzzfeed, Upworthy, HuffPo, Gawker and dozens more have perfected the formula.  “This Kid Found $20 and What Happens Next Will Restore Your Faith in Humanity.” “This Outrageous GOP Blunder Changes the Whole Game for the Dems.” “This Gyrating Animatronic Doll Will Haunt Your Dreams.”

It’s a race to the bottom and while it’s good for publishers, it’s caveat emptor time for readers and (especially) advertisers.

Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, well, still shame on you.  We are afraid of missing a cultural party our friends are already in on, so we often can’t resist. Marie knows which Downton Abbey character she is.  Rob’s Travolta-fied name is funny. And gyrating animatronic dolls.  Sometimes the promise is so good that, even though we know we’ll regret it, we click anyway.

There’s science behind it, the same kind of science that understands how to turn that first Dorito into an empty bag. It’s all there to drive page views, the thing publishers care about more than anything else. The Travolta name generator was the single biggest revenue generator for Slate last year. Upworthy is so reliant on social sharing of their click bait that when Facebook recently throttled them in users’ feeds, their traffic dropped like a name at a book party. For publishers that load ads onto their pages, the only thing that matters is that the ads load – so their job is done if you stay on the page for a few seconds.

But put yourself in the advertiser’s shoes. You care about more than the ad loading, you care about people noticing it and understanding the message. That takes time. Some of the most successful distributors of this pop content are pushing the idea that the advertising should be the click bait.  To wit, Upworthy’s “native advertising” headlined “Watch the Spread of Walmart Across the Country in One Horrifying GIF” that was paid for by the labor union AFL-CIO. Kudos to that one, as all the union intends is for you to dislike its nemeses, but if you’re actually selling a product it’s often difficult to make the connection between the “native content” (if it’s any good) and what’s being sold. Sometimes the brand finds a way to work it’s way in to the content well, but more often it’s a “brought to you by” line in the subtitle that is as flimsy a brand association as you can buy… how clear is it that this promotion is for Schick?

And, finally, using a click bait headline as your audience targeting mechanism may get a lot of eyeballs on the content, but there is no way to know whether they are the eyeballs you want to reach. Just hopping on a trending topic does not mean you have found the right audience. If both a 23-year-old woman who lives in New York City and a 50-year-old man in Vermont get pulled into the same piece of irresistible content, chances are that the ads on the page aren’t relevant to both of them.  

We’re still in the early phases of branded content – and we are in no way suggesting that branded content cannot be a valuable thing. But if you are after a specific audience, message association with your product, and having your best chance to be visible, consider this headline: “I Bought Into Click Bait And All I Got Were These Snuggling Puppies.”

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March 25, 2014 - 3 months ago

Posted In trends

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