A Journey into Emerging Media

Examining the Role of Emerging Media in Integrated Marketing Communications

Are Marketers Ready for the Consumers of Tomorrow?

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As I’ve stated throughout my journey into emerging media, I’m a fairly late adaptor to new technology. I grew up in a much simpler time where I can still remember (barely) my Dad using me as the TV remote control. If I was playing nearby, he’d ask me to change the channel for him during commercial breaks. And, at four or five years old, I can remember being all too happy to run over to the TV and push one of the 13 buttons on the console set.

1981 Zenith TV

However, my days of being the remote control ended abruptly when we got our first VCR in the early 1980s. It came with a remote control, and there was no turning back.

So, when I saw a Mashable article today with this video of a very “early adaptor,” I had to ask myself: What will her media world look like 10 or 20 years from now?

It’s probably a safe bet to say that magazines won’t be a big part of her world…or anybody’s.

Not too long ago, I came across an article on ReadWriteWeb where the author described how his colleague’s 9-year old son accessed the Web (and the world) entirely through YouTube videos on his iPad.

“Whenever his son needed any information, he would open up YouTube, type in the search term and then just watch the videos that showed up as matches. He never Googled anything; he never went to any other site; his entire Web experience was confined to YouTube videos.”

The author went on to say:

“Imagine a whole generation of kids growing up and learning about the world through YouTube [on an iPad]. In the first half of the 20th century, people grew up reading books and newspapers. Then there was a generation that grew up on movies and television. The last shift was to the Internet. And now Web video is creating yet another generation.

Kids no longer learn about the world by reading text. Like the television generation, they are absorbing the world through their visual sense. But there is a big difference. Television was programmed and inflexible. YouTube is completely micro-chunked and on demand. Kids can search for what they need anytime. This is different, and powerful.”

Powerful indeed.

The CIO at the university where I work described the same experience with his 4-year old son. He simply sits with an iPad on his lap and watches one YouTube video after another. He has no interest in TV. Pushing the buttons on the TV remote control is “no fun” compared to the interactive experience he gets on an iPad.

It’s clear that as this “digital native” generation grows up, they will expect to be able to interact with all of their media. Ten or 20 years from now, describing traditional media to them may be like this Gen Xer trying to describe a TV without a remote control to a Gen Yer.  

As marketers, are we ready to reach the consumers of today and tomorrow with new and emerging media?

We better be.

After all, there is no turning back.

Will Your Mobile Website Be Ready by 2026?

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With the explosion of smartphones on the market, one would think that usable mobile Websites would be the standard in 2011. But, it appears that we may have to wait 15 years for a mobile usability experience that compares to what we currently experience when accessing the Web through our computers.

Jakob Nielsen, a renowned researcher and consultant for Internet usability, has conducted two global studies to determine the success rate of mobile Web users being able to complete a variety of tasks using their smartphones. The Nielsen Norman Group conducted the first mobile usability study in 2009 and found that the average success rate for mobile users was 59%.

Two years later, the average mobile user success rate has increased by only 3 percentage points to 62%. Breaking the data down further, mobile users had a 64% success rate on sites designed for mobile use, while only a 58% success rate on full sites designed for desktop computers.

Although this 3% rate of improvement seems slow, it’s comparable to the rate of improvement seen among desktop Websites. Over the past 12 years, the Nielson Norman Group has conducted 263 desktop Web usability studies and has found that the current success rate for mobile Web usability is the same as it was for desktop Web usability in 1999. Currently, the desktop Web success rate is at 84%.

If the rate of mobile Web usability improves at the same pace as desktop Web usability, we’ll have to wait until 2026 to reach a 84% success rate for mobile users.

Can mobile marketers wait 15 years to reach an 84% success rate?

Absolutely not.

For many of today’s mobile Web users, the honeymoon period is over. The “cool factor” of just being able to access the Web through their mobile devices has worn off, and it has been replaced with higher expectations resulting from every good and bad mobile Web experience they have.

So how do we get to 2026 faster?

First, we need to build separate mobile Websites that give users more manageable experiences than trying to navigate desktop Websites on their smartphones. Mobile users do have more success using mobile apps (76%) than mobile Websites (64%), but mobile apps are expensive to develop so it may be more cost-effective for brands to design a mobile site rather than an app.

Second, mobile Websites need to load quickly with minimal failure rates. This means minimizing extraneous graphics and content that do not add to the mobile users’ experiences. Below are the Top 30 mobile commerce retail sites, with the top performer, Sears, achieving a less than 4-second load time and a 0.08% failure rate. Impressive!

Mobile Commerce Performance Index Part 1

Mobile Commerce Performance Index Part 2

The longest load time of the Top 30 was almost 33 seconds. In our impatient society, that can seem like a lifetime. Yet, this retail site made the Top 30 list. Imagine the load times for those not on the list? Most mobile Websites should aim for a 10-second load time.

Third, we need to follow design guidelines specific for mobile Web development. The Nielson Norman Group has identified 210 guidelines, an increase of 125 guidelines since 2009. With mobile sites, the number one guideline is to design for a small screen. Mobile marketers and Web designers need to work together to identify the most important mobile Web features, limit any non-essential features, and design around the user experience, e.g., appropriately spacing links so users can easily click with their “fat fingers.”

Fourth, once we’ve designed a mobile Website, we need to let mobile users know about it by cross-linking the full Website to the mobile site and vice versa. Search engines often direct mobile users to a brand’s full Website, rather than to the mobile site. By cross-linking, mobile users can choose which site they prefer to use.

Finally, we can learn a lot by studying the best. Below is a video highlighting the nominees for the 2011 Meffys Awards for the Best Mobile Website, including:

  • CBS
  • Maxis
  • RTL.be
  • GAP
  • Audi

And the winner is…

DISCLAIMER: This video takes about 20 seconds to start, an ironic reminder of what it’s like to wait for a poorly designed website to load on a mobile phone.

The Only Things Certain in Life are Death, Taxes, and…Facebook Changes?

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If Benjamin Franklin were alive now, he might have added “Facebook changes” to the list of things that are certain in life. Much to the dismay of many users, Facebook is constantly changing and evolving to improve user experience. It seems like just as we get comfortable with the social networking tool, CEO Mark Zuckerberg goes and changes it on us.

Sometimes we “Like” those changes, and sometimes we don’t. The latest changes, which are slated to launch in an opt-in format in the next few weeks, constitute Facebook’s biggest “facelift” since the site was launched. Here’s a preview of the new type of Facebook profile, Timeline:

In a nutshell, the new Timeline profile will allow you to turn Facebook into an electronic scrapbook of your entire life by centralizing all of your milestones, events, photos, posts, places you’ve visited, and apps you’ve used in one place.

With the new Facebook, you’ll also be able to do more than just “Like” something. You’ll be able to use Facebook Gestures to indicate that you’ve Read, Watched, or Listened (or any other verb you can think of) to any noun, e.g. book, movie, song. New partners, such as Hulu, Spotify, and Yahoo, will also allow you to share your experiences reading, watching, and listening with your friends without leaving the Facebook platform.

Tired of all the FarmVille and Mafia Wars updates? The new Facebook Timeline will push these trivial updates to the “Ticker” section, which allows more space for the important stuff—like photos of friends and family.

So will we give the new Facebook Timeline a “thumbs up” or a “thumbs down”?

From a marketing perspective, the new Facebook Timeline has great potential to tell the brand’s story with more photos, content, and engagement opportunities. Here’s a sample of what Coca-Cola’s new Facebook profile could look like:

Facebook Timeline Example for Coca-Cola

The large “Cover” photo can help a brand make an immediate impression. The ability for a brand to better organize and share more content will make their Facebook pages more informative and robust like their Websites. Plus, the new Facebook Timeline will have an infinite scroll feature, so the problem of Facebook posts disappearing to the “Older Posts” after just a few hours may be resolved.

So why all of the Facebook changes? Is it an innate need by Zuckerberg to change things up? Or is something else going on?

With more than 800 million users (just a few blog posts ago there were only 750 million users), would it surprise you to learn that Facebook has low user satisfaction ratings?

In a national evaluation of goods and services, Facebook scored 64 on the American Customer Satisfaction Index. This is the lowest score of any measured Websites; 10 points lower than YouTube and 14 points lower than Wikipedia. The score ranks it among the bottom 5% of all measured private-sector companies and ranks its satisfaction levels as similar to those of airline and cable companies.

With Google+ and other niche social networking sites starting to gain some ground, could it be that Facebook was forced to improve the user experience or risk becoming tomorrow’s MySpace?

Here a Tweet, There a Tweet, Everywhere a Tweet, Tweet

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Twitter has the power to spread a 140-character message to the masses in a matter of a few seconds. Back in July, an IKEA store in Florida conducted an experiment to see just how far and wide that message could be spread in Twittersphere. In a unique Twitter campaign, IKEA gave 44 contestants the chance to win store gift certificates by asking Twitter followers to post or retweet a message with their team name as the hashtag. Beginning at midnight, the teams had two hours to complete tasks with various IKEA products and then tweet posts and photos of their experiences. At the end of the two hours, the team with the most followers tweeting with their team’s hashtag won the prizes.

By the next morning, IKEA’s marketing experiment garnered 8 million impressions on Twitter. The challenge to marketers is understanding exactly what a “Twitter impression” measures. Does that mean 8 million people saw Twitter posts for the IKEA campaign? Not quite.

According to TweetReach, “impressions” equates to how many times the messages could have been seen if all users saw every tweet they subscribe to. Others think a more useful measure of Twitter is “reach,” which can be defined as the total number of unique people who could have seen one post. For IKEA’s Twitter campaign, the reach was estimated to be around 700,000 people who could have seen a single tweet related to the campaign.

Yet, as I mentioned in my previous post, the life of a Tweet is relatively short (around 3 hours), so the number of people who actually saw the post may be small compared to those who had the potential to see it. Considering IKEA held the contest at midnight and a lot of people were probably sleeping when the tweeting began, the potential for many of the tweets to go unnoticed may have been pretty high.

Nonetheless, for a two-hour campaign without prior media promotion, IKEA managed to create significant buzz—both online and in the store. The campaign resulted in a 20 percent increase in store traffic, a 24 percent increase in sales, and the busiest Saturday the store had experienced in more than a year.

When it comes to creative social media campaigns, IKEA is certainly one to watch. In 2009, IKEA won PR Week’s Award for best use of Online Media for its Mark Lives in IKEA campaign, which garnered more than 382 million media impressions.

Now with all of its creativity in social media, one would think that IKEA could figure out that it should be linking its official Twitter, Facebook, and YouTube sites to the main IKEA website…Sometimes, it’s all about the basics! 🙂

 

Written by Jennifer

September 28, 2011 at 11:03 pm

If You Post It, They Will Come. Or Maybe Not?

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As I have mentioned before, I am a big believer in the value of emerging media, especially social media, for integrated marketing communications. However, I have been slow to incorporate social media into my personal life. I do have a Facebook page, but I login only a few times a month and I rarely post information about myself. Just last week, I signed up for my own Twitter account. As a trial run, my first “Tweet” was “Hello?” to my first Follower –  my husband.

And now I’ve got my own blog, so I am making progress with my journey into emerging media!🙂

When I think about the reasons why I have been a late adaptor of social media, I realize that part of my barrier is that I’m a worrywart. I worry if what I have to say is interesting or exciting enough to warrant a Facebook post or a Tweet? While my friends and family post regularly, I often censor myself. And, when I do put myself out there, I feel exposed. I wonder who’s going to see this and what will they think of it?

As it turns out, I should be more worried about who won’t see my social media posts. A recent study by Bit.ly, the link shortening service, found that half of the total traffic generated from social media links will happen in the first three hours of the post. After three hours, the chances anyone will see my posts on Facebook or Twitter rapidly decline. For YouTube, it averages a little over seven hours.

Half Life of Social Media

Combine this with data that shows fewer than 7.5% of fans view Facebook Pages on a daily basis, and it’s easy to see how the majority of social media posts may go unnoticed.

Facebook Fan Page Read

So what’s an IMC professional to do? Three strategies may help.

First, the best solution is to make sure that a brand’s social media strategy is engaging and brings value to the consumer. Brands need to make sure that they make daily checking of social media posts worth consumers’ time. If brands can’t provide meaningful answers to a consumer’s question of “what’s in it for me?” they have lots of work to do.

Second, regardless of how engaging a brand’s social media presence is, people are busy. They may simply run out of time to check Facebook or catch up on Tweets. And, by the time they do check, the post has been buried in a sea of other posts. To combat this problem, brands should consider re-posting major information a few hours after the original post. One company who has been trying this for the past six months received 50% more traffic from the second post than the first post.

Third, with the percentage of fans viewing a Facebook page on a daily basis decreasing as the number of fans increase, it may be a sign that a brand’s online community has become too big. As social media fan bases grow larger, consumers may feel more disengaged and isolated in a sea of thousands. Think about your experiences in college classes with hundreds of students compared to those with less than 30 students. Which experience was more fulfilling? Which felt more like a community? And in which class were you more likely to participate? To prevent social media communities from potentially getting too big, brands should consider developing separate social media communities around niche audiences and interests.

What do you think? 

Written by Jennifer

September 25, 2011 at 3:15 pm

Web 2.0: Less is More.

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The goal of Web 3.0 is to help us make better meaning out of the massive amounts of data that have accumulated with Web 2.0. With the promise of Web 3.0 in the distant future, what can we do now to make Web 2.0 more meaningful and manageable?

Perhaps an intermediate step in the “Internet Evolution” should be the reduction in the amount of data that is floating around in cyberspace? Not only could less data make the Web more manageable, but it may actually make the data more meaningful.

Many companies strive to create the most comprehensive website possible by putting “everything” online. After all, cyberspace has no boundaries, so there’s lots of room for everything—plus the kitchen sink!

However, some are beginning to rethink the “everything” approach. Instead, they are designing Website navigation and content around “top tasks.” Most consumers visit Websites with an end goal in mind – to research information, to make a purchase, to request more information, etc. The longer it takes them to accomplish their goals, the more frustrated they will be come—and the less they will think of your brand.

In theory, the longer consumers stay on the site, the more engaged they are with your content, your products, and your brand.

Really?

Or, could it be that they’re lost in an overwhelming maze of too much content, too many links, and too many graphics, so it’s taking them twice as long to do what they want to do? Studies have shown that the more time people spent on Web pages, the less they understood.

Furthermore, it has been shown that lines, boxes, and graphics constructed to catch the eye actually work as barriers, as consumers perceive them to be “marketing traps.” These additional graphics can actually break the flow of the consumers’ “journey” through your Website.

The companies that value consumers will value their time and build their Websites accordingly. They will reduce unnecessary content (cut in half, and then cut in half again), graphics, and other barriers that serve no real purpose other than to make their Websites “sticky.”

Plus, now that more and more people are accessing Websites through small mobile devices, it’s even more important to have a “top tasks” and “less is more” approach to Website design.

As IMC professionals, it should be our goal to help consumers do what they need to in the most efficient manner possible. After all, IMC is about building relationships. When’s the last time you wanted to have a relationship with someone who wasted your time?

For Web 2.0, less is really more.

Internet Evolution: We’ve Come a Long Way, Baby!

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As I continue think about all that has changed over the past 10 years and where emerging media is taking us, I started to wonder, “What exactly did the World Wide Web like in 2001?” Do you remember? I barely do.

2001 was the year of the Dot-com bubble burst, when fledging tech companies bet money (lots of it) that we would begin living our lives more and more online. Perhaps these companies were just 10 years ahead of their time? Or perhaps they didn’t understand that the ultimate appeal of the Internet would come with Web 2.0, when the Web evolved into an interactive, social community.

Here’s a little trip down memory lane into the world of Web 1.0:

Apple Homepage in 2001

New York Times Homepage in 2001

MSN Homepage in 2001

If you want to have a little fun, enter the URL of your favorite Website on The Wayback Machine. The Wayback Machine archives over 150 billion Web pages dating back to 1996. It’s fun to see how far the Internet has come since 1996. Some of our Websites were downright ugly! Check out this infographic created by OnlineUniversity.net comparing the Web of 1996 to 2011.

Web 1996 vs 2011

It’s hard to believe that today’s most popular site—Google—did not even exist in 1996. Gee, hasn’t Google been around forever? I guess not.🙂

Google Homepage, 1998

During the past 10 or so years, we’ve evolved from Web 1.0 into Web 2.0 with predictions of Web 3.0 on the horizon. Web 2.0 took us from static pages with publishers controlling content to this:

Web 3.0 will be the next step in the Internet evolution. Also known as the Semantic Web, it will give the massive amount of data on the Web “meaning” with better organization, definitions, and interconnected pages. It will transform the Web into a more meaningful, searchable database.

 Are you ready?

Written by Jennifer

September 14, 2011 at 11:16 pm

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