Category Archives: Content

Influencer Content Marketing in 2016

Why I Think Zuckerberg is Trying to Kill Influencer Marketing

I have a new theory — call it a prediction — about the future of influencer marketing.

Recently, Instagram has been meeting with some of its latest advertisers and media partners to council them on the social platform’s latest algorithm update — a transition that will rank newsfeed content by relevance, rather than chronology, similar to its parent Facebook’s own newsfeed algorithm. Instagram’s advice to marketers, succinctly summarized, boils down to this: “Make better content to keep up with the aesthetic expectations of users, and get ready to advertise [even more] to distribute it, because Instagram organic reach will ultimately follow the downward trend as Facebook’s.”

While any marketer caught off guard by this shift couldn’t have been paying attention to the last few years of social media history, what’s interesting to me is how the organic reach race-to-the-bottom keeps reaffirming the same, cyclical social advertising sequence: Continue reading

How to Win Anyone's Attention by Chris Bolman

How to Win Anyone’s Attention

The average person now consumes twelve hours of media, checks their phone close to 110 times and sees an estimated 5,000 marketing messages each day. When most of us also regularly put in 8+ hours on the job, it’s no wonder our collective attention span is more taxed than ever.

Data overwhelmingly confirms it too. According to MailChimp 80-85% of marketing emails are never opened, and even in digital video — one of the most promising frontiers for marketers — 56% of viewers regularly skip pre-roll and vocally prefer ads that are fifteen seconds or less. The National Center for Biotechnology Information at the U.S. National Library of Medicine finds average human attention span decreased from 12 seconds in 2000 to 8 seconds in 2013, no doubt influenced by the influx of real-time content streams available to us 24/7/365 on social at a moments’ notice.

As a marketer or advertiser, all this is also a reality check and constant reminder about how precious attention has become. If you’re thinking about what this means for your marketing efforts, or you’re producing a lot of quality content but struggling to get noticed, here are four principles you can apply to win anyone’s attention.

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What Does Growth Hacking Really Mean?

The Five Cornerstones of Growth Hacking

Growth hacking is currently going through a turbulent adolescence. After being thrust into the public spotlight by opportunistic media pundits and loosely-correlated startup success stories, the innovation community has struggled to define and defend growth hacking as a practice or designation with substance.  To borrow from a thoughtful, recent article by Lincoln Murphy, the growth hacker community has been heavily compromised and co-opted by “…linkbait [name-dropping] people use to get traffic while they rehash the Hotmail and AirBnB ‘hacks’ or talk about SEO or Copywriting or [any generic marketing tactic] and tag it #growthhacking.”

Today, we seem to be past the point of no return, and stuck at two opposite extremes. At one end, doing anything successful at a startup that required more technical acumen than opening a web browser is heralded as “growth hacking.” Yet, at the same time, growth hacking is being increasingly lumped in with spammy, smarmy and coercive promotional tactics used by over-eager startup marketers to try to get an edge.

Can growth hacking rise above all this self-induced backlash? Does growth hacking still have a reputable professional identity that gives it legs to stand on? Am I a growth hacker? Are you? Growth hacking feels like it needs a clearer, nobler definition, and here’s my first attempt to suggest one. Growth hacking achieves a business vision using digital resources (code, content, data) to capitalize on economic or technical opportunities in order to produce sustainable yet rapid growth for a company or cause. If a strategy or tactic doesn’t have a technology-enabled vision, doesn’t identify and expose a market opportunity, isn’t sustainable and/or secure and doesn’t result in helping a company grow faster, bigger or both, it’s not growth hacking.

How is this different from, well, digital marketing? Let’s take search engine optimization (SEO) as an example and break it down: Continue reading

Defining Content Marketing in 2014

There’s no question content marketing is evolving rapidly. In 2009, content marketing meant blogging and writing SEO articles for your website. Fast forward five years, and content marketing is simultaneously both more omnipresent and more challenging to concretely define.  If a brand’s presences across social, mobile and web are defined by the reach and discoverability of their digital assets (apps, photos, videos, etc.), isn’t all marketing technically “content marketing?” Continue reading

Mobile Startup Jelly

What Can We Expect from Jelly?

Jelly, Twitter co-founder Biz Stone’s new mobile startup, is pretty fascinating.  For context, Jelly is a social question app based on mobile photos, placing it at the intersection of Q&A (Quora), local, real-time information (Foursquare), short-form visual content (Snapchat, Instagram, Twitter) and ephemeral, person-to-person swipe-based interaction (Tinder). Creating a visual layer (interlaced with conversation) over local information is a big, ambitious idea that in most cases I’d say is trying to bite off more than it can chew, if the founding team wasn’t so strong and well-connected.  Continue reading

Virool Viral Video Advertising Network

Virool: The Viral Video Black Box

Self-serve YouTube video ad network Virool seems to be on a tear, raising a $6.6M seed round in February from investors that include Thomvest Ventures, Menlo Ventures, Draper Fisher Jurveston, 500 Startups, Phenomen Ventures, TMT Investments, DominateFund, FundersClub and a cadre of well-known individual investors. Virool also boasts some solid traction, including 30,000 registered advertisers and a network said to be capable of reaching 22 million viewers.

I first experimented with Virool in August 2012, and, even back then can say simply: Alex and Vlad built an intuitive product that works. Enter the URL of your YouTube video, pay money and it gets views through their embed network. The team has also clearly done a good job scaling their affiliate network, making the product an interesting alternative to AdWords for Video. As a result, since mid-last year, I’ve run several different Virool campaign split and A/B tests, with frequently interesting results.

However, once you get past its basic product efficacy, Virool is, at its core, a bit of a black box that leaves some important questions unanswered about it’s ad network. Specifically:

1. Who’s watching?Virool currently allows you to “target” your demographic (demo) by age, gender, placement, geography and keyword. However, the results have yet to inspire full confidence. Geographic demo-targeting at a basic level seems to work: Virool maps your views in the dashboard and assuming the views aren’t being run through proxies if you select United States only you’ll get United States-based view views. However, after that, the system offers very little transparency. If I select “Blogs/Sites” only for my view placements, what blogs and sites are these? And how is a blog or website segmenting its traffic by keyword or visitor age/gender? I can say that video campaigns targeted at a very specific demo (say, 18-24 year old male baed on a small set of keywords) doesn’t produce results consistent with YouTube’s demo analytics on the back end.

2. Where are they watching? I’ll give Virool some credit here because in a lot of cases Google/YouTube hasn’t been able to do any better, but going to the digital team at a sophisticated consumer brand or agency and presenting campaign results as “5,000 people from Brooklyn watched your video on some blog or website” is going to invite a lot of hard follow-up questions. What website(s)? News sites? Tech blogs? Are videos ever run through gates or video view exchanges? Currently with Virool it’s impossible to tell.

3. Do Virool viewers care or pay attention? Beyond the question of who’s watching where, an additional open question is how engaged are they? Specifically, when split-testing the same video across different distribution “channels,” I’ve found in particular that Games and Virtual Currency API’s can rapidly chew up ad spend and generate views that seem to have near-zero content engagement, even it it’s something like a Gamer Walkthrough or Live-Action Shooter clip. Why is that? My hypothesis is simply that audience-members want to play their game or build their currency base, not necessarily actually watch your content (some of these services you can even bot and run through video after video on mute in the background while you do something on a different browser). Trading virtual currency for YouTube views is hardly a new model, and if Virool is plugging into virtual currency view exchanges or gated ad networks to run through inventory it’s generating non-engaged shadow views at the expense of the advertiser.

4. So engagement is really a total dice roll (Do Virool viewers care or pay attention – Part 2)? For those who haven’t noticed, YouTube’s focus is on subscriptions and minutes watched, not views. Yes, there’s still a huge psychological reinforcement mechanism when you see a video with 4 million views, and at scale video virality can in some cases become a self-fulfilling prophecy (see: the Harlem Shake), but YouTube’s algorithm heavily weights audience retention, minutes watched and click-throughs at the expense of views. Here again, Virool’s view service is awfully sexy (particularly because it can be achieved quickly at lower CPV levels than Google’s PPC networks), but it doesn’t build audiences and it doesn’t give video marketers actionable data and insights about their viewership.

In order for me to really see Virool as the next generation of video ad exchange, Alex, Vlad and the rest of the team really need to develop the product to make it more transparent and address these unanswered questions. I’ve followed Alex on Quora for a while, even pre-Virool, and it’s clear to me he has significant expertise in the video space, the arbitrage he’s put together is really clever, and it would be awesome if Virool can apply its big raise to bring a lot more transparency to its viral video black box. Without it, it’s hard for a knowledgeable video marketer to really trust the product, because I know the shortcuts that can be taken and need conviction to know that Virool is taking the high ground.

YouTube 2013 Growth Hours of Video

Why Twitter Isn’t Saving Television

“Social TV” is hot right now.  Twitter is strategically building studio relationships, major consumer brands are engineering Super Bowl ad campaigns around second screen experiences, data companies targeting the intersection of online audience engagement and ad dollars are attracting considerable investor interest and everyone from Microsoft to Time Warner is dipping their toe into the new overnight sensationalism surrounding big media conversation.  But while it’s fairly easy to affirm that the future of TV looks highly social, with tremendous opportunity for fostering content-centric dialogue and [re-]targeting, it’s a lot less clear how much “tomorrow TV” looks like the present in terms of platform, players and economic allocation.  One thing that’s already clear though, is Twitter (and GetGlue, BlueFin Labs et al.) isn’t saving traditional TV from considerable current and future disruption, for three reasons: Continue reading

What Dharmesh from Hubspot Taught Me About Google+

Right or wrong, I consider myself a fairly tech-savvy marketer. I’ve built close to a dozen websites, advised companies ranging from Fortune 100’s to two-person team startups on how to optimize aspects of their digital strategy and gotten hundreds of thousands of views and clicks on an assortment of content and conversion destinations. And, given my background, I’ve been well aware of Hubspot for some time. I first got a demo of Hubspot’s lead gen analysis tools in 2010 and recall immediately thinking “Wow. This much knowledge about your inbound traffic is powerful.”  Turns out I wasn’t the only one thinking that by a long shot. And as an active member of the Boston-Kendall-Cambridge tech scene, I’m even more aware of Hubspot’s dramatic rise to prominence in the Boston startup scene, as well as the reverence the entire entrepreneurial community holds for Hubspot Founder and CTO, Dharmesh Shah.

“He’s so impressive,” a friend and Hubspot colleague once told me; “still highly active in the code base – an incredible analyst and tireless innovator.”

So when I caught on Twitter that Dharmesh was speaking at an event (aside: in the very cool 500 Harrison BzzAgent South End co-working space, right above Cincocento, the Aquitaine Group’s elegant new restaurant loft), I made the trip over from Kendall to see what I could learn from the Hubspot luminary. Continue reading