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Digital marketers, are you listening?

Podcasts have become widely popular in a short amount of time in the US. About 75% of trendsetting Generation Z – people born from the mid-1990s to the early 2000s – pay for a streaming or music service, compared to six out 10 among the not all that older Millennials (a third of whom say they listen to at least one podcast daily). Commuters and workers are coming more and more to value multitasking and making efficient use of time. This is indeed the Information Age, as a new study among on the popularity of podcasts in the US indicates.

 

Giving reason to radically rethink ideas related to digital distraction and shorter attention spans, Millennials are focused more than other age group on education podcasts, and along with Gen Zers are 5 percent more likely to play podcasts for motivation related to professional development than Gen Xers and Baby Boomers. The two younger generations were also more likely to listen to podcasts of 26 minutes, compared to older generations. Significant majorities in all generations believed that podcasts helped them in terms of intellectual growth. Older generations still saw them more as gadgets associated with downtime rather than the platforms for learning they have also become thought of among younger Americans.

 

Spreading the word

 

Most podcast fans want to share, but desire easier technology allowing for sharing snippets of sound rather than links requiring some fine tuning to get to the best sections. Spotify, Apple Podcasts and web browsers were cited as the most popular platforms for podcasts. Nearly a full tenth of the entire adult US population listen to at least one podcast a month, a trend that has shown significant increase. Good listeners are indeed out there, for anyone sharing the right messages…

 

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Marketing, automated

When you’re curious about what chance there is of rain, snow or something even more dramatic falling down on you, it’s good to know weather reports are reasonably reliable. While the forecasts for marketing trends may not yet be as accurate, they are getting better at indicating stormy conditions best avoided. Still in its infancy, this technology is called predictive analytics, and uses AI to help marketers forge ahead more confidently with strategy based largely on future customer behavior, in ways that would have looked risky just a few years ago.

 

PR, scientifically

 

The science takes a variety of statistics and facts about current trends to build models that are getting better at giving a good indication of how consumers will spend their money, based on analysis of past behavioral patterns. The big idea is that this will help save a ton of money on splash-out marketing campaigns and help PR agencies and their clients improve ROI numbers. Six out of 10 entrepreneurs questioned in a recent study said that think predictive analytics is an extremely significant trend, while nearly three-fourths of them said it would more definitely be so within two years.

 

Why predictions matter

 

Beyond lucrative applications for predicting the wants and needs of buyers of all kinds of products and services, the technology will be useful for prioritizing and qualifying leads, focusing publicity and campaigns on more targeted audiences, and more efficient introduction and testing of new items in the market. Predictive analytics is one more indicator of how big data is changing and enriching the information landscape in countless ways.

 

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The rise of video SEO

Image may not be everything, but videos are often more fun to take a moment to be distracted by than text. Marketing experts know that using video helps websites rank more highly in terms of SEO. The authority of the website matters as well, in addition to various factors that will increase the professionalism of your videos. High quality video videos have been easily shot on smartphones for years now, and companies are slowly getting better about capturing images in short films that help project the image they want.

 

How to optimize

 

Having a website that’s already impressive helps. So does a good choice and use of platforms your videos are seen and available on beyond your website. Social media accounts like YouTube, Vimeo and Facebook are of course useful for generating awareness. Screenshots can be extracted from footage and used to help generate interest with a choice caption. If you don’t have a transcript yet, make one – this will make it easier for those who still prefer reading or use it part of the time. And do you offer a choice of languages?

 

Thumbnails matter

 

The video will get better play when it is the focus of the page and not lingering in corners. This makes for easier navigation as well. Another tech spec to be aware of is page-loading time. Since videos aren’t digested all in one go, and don’t lend themselves as effectively to scanning and scrolling through like website and texts, having an enticing and clear thumbnail image with an appropriate title is a must. If your video is about dining in a particular restaurant, don’t use a thumbnail featuring someone driving to the restaurant or something else indirectly related. But being human matters too. One marketing site found that thumbnails with a person were clicked on 30% more. Many tend to judge a book by its cover and a video by its thumbnail, so make sure to have an irresistible one.

 

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The shifting but significant nature of SEO and social media

Recent research shows that while almost two-thirds of small businesses have social media accounts, just over half of them have a social media marketing strategy. While that may not be as dangerous as buying and driving a car without getting a driver’s license first, there is plenty of room for more prudence on behalf of firms of any size attempting to make best use of their online potential. Even when you don’t know all of the terrain that lies ahead, roadmaps are useful.

 

Social media marketing coming of age

 

Over 55% of these businesses with a social media presence have an in-house team managing these webpages, while 37% of them use social media software to help maintain their social media accounts. The most popular ways in which these firms are tracking the success of their social media presence is engagement (24%), leads/conversation (24%), clicks to other websites (18%) and audience growth (16%). There remains significant reluctance to jump into new waters without a sense of what lies beneath.

 

Don’t forget SEO, even if it’s mysterious

 

Even more perplexing than attempting to optimize usage of social media is managing your website’s SEO, since, well, we’re not quite sure exactly what it is or how it works, actually. Over 60% of small companies place greater importance on social media marketing than SEO planning. Just over a third of small businesses have an SEO strategy, although about a quarter of them plan to have one by the end of 2019. This lack of planning is perhaps understandable when considering the shifting, unreliable nature of what SEO is, and how search engines like Google define it. But it pays to pay attention and be ready for what comes next, when some kind of calm and standardization comes about after the stormy conditions defining the online world of today.

 

The Human & Digital Communications Agency

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Who’s your CSR czar?

Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) has been with us for around a quarter century now, but is rooted in philanthropic concepts as old as time, which go to the heart of what society could or should be based on. The tendency to want to be seen as doing good and being fair-minded has long been a concern to leaders of businesses, nations and other institutions. Not least of which since it helps justify their continuing to retain power and influence, for – at least in their minds – the greater good.

 

The authority to help out

 

While CSR is still seen as secondary to the overriding purposes of many firms, it easily aligns with their overarching mission statements, which describe companies’ ideal societal impacts, beyond profits. At a minimum, companies facilitate the betterment of the lives of employees and their dependents. Meanwhile, governments tend to see themselves as providers or at least enablers of the SR part of CSR. But as big data comes about, transparency increases and bottom lines and product origins become more traceable, CSR in a wider sense of ethics increasingly affects not just local environments, but carbon footprints felt globally.

 

The Gen Z factor

 

People with little to know knowledge of the last millennium or life before smartphones are now coming of age, shopping online, and expressing tendencies to spend their money on companies they see as taking stands on issues and sourcing products and services in ethical, sustainable and documentable ways. Several multinationals like Netflix, Google and IBM have reached out to young consumers who have expressed interest in supporting companies aligned with their progressive, modern values. Many brands are shifting to move away from certain segments of the public and more overtly marketing and positioning themselves to take better advantage of new demographic realties.

 

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Influence through the ages

While there’s tendency to look at modern, IT-focused folks these days as something like minions, overly reliant on our smarter-than-us smartphones and losing the ability to think independently, the truth is humans have never been all that hard to persuade. We are easily influenced, and influencers have long been toying with our perceptions of ourselves and how we might ideally perceive ourselves. But while we may not be fully in charge of our own destiny, we can at least be alert enough to retain significant influence in deciding who we let influence us in the digital age.

 

Incognito by nature

 

Two years ago, the US government called on social media influencers to be more open about who they are and who their sponsors are. The relevant regulating board noted that “clarity counts” in its advice for the industry to self-regulate, calling into question vague attributions such as #collab, #ambassador or #spon. Yet the lack of clarity and anonymity of those posting messages provides them the cover of security when whistleblowing is called for – not to mention good old-fashioned privacy.

 

All’s Well that Ends Well

 

This play by William Shakespeare’s play includes the advice of one character to another that if you “eat, speak, and move, under the influence of the most receiv’d star” the chances of career advancement and steering clear of trouble are higher. But while a full fourth of the master wordsmith’s many plays include the word “influence”, rarely is the word presented in a positive context. “Influence” derives from the Latin words for “inflow”, and indeed in many ways being influenced is as natural as breathing. But we must be on guard. Cautionary tales abound, and the truism “buyer beware” retains significance in the digital era. Be mindful of the influence that blows your way, and be careful of what you take to be truth.

 

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Keeping it real in a digital age

 

Digital marketers, you have your work cut out for you.

 

Consumers find the content generated by companies, less interesting, less authentic and less impactful on their purchasing decisions than advice given by fellow buyers, according to a new report by Stackla, a marketing platform that focuses on and user-generated content. The report, which says that 86% of consumers place a premium on authenticity, indicates vast differences between consumers and marketers.

 

Information being shared on products should ideally focuses on personalized experiences with brands, say nearly 7 out of 10 customers surveyed for the major report. But while 92% of marketers think their brands are providing the personalized content that buyers prefer, less than half of the customers themselves agree with this. Not surprisingly, customers are also over twice as likely to find customer-to-customer shared content interesting, compared to brand-created content.

 

Tell me a story, and keep it personal

 

The Stakla report also says that customers are turning to first-hand accounts on social media platforms for advice from fellow experiencers, shoppers, travelers and other buyers of various services and products. Nearly 90% of respondents would post about a positive travel experience, while 85% and 65% would do the same about a similar encounter with a restaurant or health/beauty product, respectively.

 

The chasm-like consumer-company disconnect is compounded by how consumers are 2.4 times as likely to think customer-created content is most authentic, while companies are 2.1 times as likely to think that brands are better at generating the most authentic content. The study indicates that nearly 80% of buyers say user-generated content affects their decisions whether to buy something. Compare that to with a paltry 8% who said the same thing about influencer-created content. That doesn’t sound very influential, actually.

 

Digital marketers, you have your work cut out for you.

 

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Once more, with feeling, please

Public relations professionals must cope with a complicated work environment that even more than usual now calls on them to be adaptive to disruption and ready to shift their core skills onto new platforms, even when the ground beneath their feet is giving way. Customers in the Information Age are making a majority of buying decisions that are, ultimately, based on emotional factors, says a partner at a big B2B marketing firm.

 

Buyers want a good story, and to develop a connection with a company before committing to a purchase. Trust and authenticity matters, not slick marketing. Just make sure what you say is interesting: in the B2B world in particular, boredom has become a significant factor to overcome, as prudence too often overrides the need to take bold action when called for.

 

I heard it through the grapevine

 

Beyond the sometimes overhyped influence of influencers on social media and the like lies the commonsense persuasive power that comes from word of mouth. Conversations with friends and colleagues count as much as online influence, according to a study from data and analytics firm Engagement Labs. Face-to-face sharing also tends to allow people to exchange thoughts on a wider range of products and services, and in ways in which we are freed up from online values in terms of showing awareness of what’s trending, getting wrapped up in “social signaling” or being in broadcast mode. Offline, you are more likely to give unfiltered, no-nonsense advice, and on products (like laundry soap) you may not necessarily feel the need to tweet about.

 

If your product is good enough and the story to sell it is touching, the hard work is already done.

 

The Human & Digital Communications Agency

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Busted for insufficient social credit

China is forging ahead with several innovative trends in e-commerce and social media that are having significant effects on the lives of its netizens. The country is tracking of its citizens’ behavior via the Internet (and CCTV cameras). There are now increasingly significant additional costs for violators of small-time crimes and those involved in other activities deemed to be “unsociable”.

 

Some 23 million Chinese have been blacklisted from buying airplane or train tickets for engaging in what the government deems to be anti-social behavior, which can include anything from smoking on trains to letting pet dogs run free in areas where they should be leashed, to using outdated tickets on public transport or not paying taxes. Spreading fake news can also get you “discredited”, which in a society that relies heavily on censorship and propaganda can lead to a lot of grey areas.

 

Simply unsocial behavior

 

One particularly cringe-worthy example of dubious digital behavior was entertainer Cai Xukun’s over-the-top efforts to make his new song go, go, go viral. Although already a member of popular boy band Nine Percent, Cai vastly inflated the number of times his new song “Wait, Wait, Wait” had been shared on social media site Weibo. While the song may not have the cool factor of a banned book generating its own special-edition PR, if the stunt leads to more people listening to the song, well, there you go. But it’s not the kind of technique likely to be useful more than once.

 

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Getting the right fit and other adventures in retail

Stores are upping their IT game to entice customers into the buying process, and to help keep the in-store shopping experience relevant in a world online. Nike recently unveiled the Reactland VR video game in the iconic brand’s New York flagship branch. Potential buyers can strap on a pair of Epic React Nikes and run on a treadmill, as they watch an avatar of them with footwork synched to their own navigating a virtual environment on a big screen, for the entertainment of all in the store. The CGI settling allows you to test drive a pair of Nikes in a challenging environment.

 

Be your own tailor

 

Clothiers may have to turn more to such strategies if new tailoring technology proliferates. The prototype Size-Stream Scanner uses 10 sensors and takes just a few seconds to know the shape of you. The technology has improved vastly in recent years, and is complemented by the spread of big data and array of opportunities to spend more money in fewer clicks. The surprise factors involved with trying on shirts and trousers could soon be a thing of the past. Outfittery takes things a step further by using 20 algorithims based on the ideas of some 600,000 consumers to offer not only outfits that fit to a tee, but sage fashion advice on colors and styles based on your personality profile. Armed with detailed tech specs, buyers be free to order clothing (and style advice) with greater confidence with just an Internet connection.

 

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