Forbes & Google Study: U.S. Executives Under 40 Will Bring Online Networking to “Unprecedented Levels”

June 23rd, 2009

Forbes Insights in association with Google released a report yesterday that suggests many interesting ramifications for the future of Internet marketing, particularly in the areas of pay-per-click marketing, search engine optimization, and social media marketing. Titled “The Rise of the Digital C-Suite: How Executives Locate and Filter Business Information,” the report illuminates a stark generational divide between the top executives at large U.S. companies who are under 50 years of age and over 50 years of age and how they make use of tools such as search engines, blogs and social networking websites, online video, and PPC ads. Based on these differences, the report predicts that “profound organizational evolution” will take place as “Generation Netscape”—those under-40s whose careers began in the 1990s—move into the senior positions at their companies.

The report is based on a survey of more than 350 top executives at U.S. companies with at least $1 billion in annual sales. The subjects were questioned on their information-gathering styles and whether or how frequently they used different Internet tools. Though the effect of age on one’s comfort level with technology is a given, some of the findings in the Forbes/Google report are still rather shocking. For example, the report found that 41% of under-50s frequently use pay-per-click advertising to gather business information, compared with just 6% of those over 50. Perhaps less surprisingly, 59% of executives under 50 use online social networking websites daily or several times per week versus 18% of those over 50.

One of the report’s most interesting findings was that, in its own words, “search is the executive’s home page.” Nearly two-thirds of respondents identified general search engines as very valuable, but here also the connection between age and usage was striking. Thirty-nine percent of the executives under 40 perform more than 20 work-related searches per day, versus 17% of 40-to-49 year olds and 6% of 50-somethings. This suggests that search engine optimization will become more rather than less important even as social media websites such as Twitter and Facebook gain importance as information-gathering tools.

Speaking of Twitter, 56% of executives under 40 said that they use micro-feeds such as Twitter at least several times per week, versus 34% of 40-to-49 year olds.

The core lesson with which the report concludes is that the generation of executives under 40 is “likely to take collaboration and networking in research to unprecedented levels,” turning transparency and openness into “core professional and personal attributes.” To download a copy of the report, visit http://www.forbes.com/forbesinsights/digital_csuite/index.html.

Social Media Marketing Comes to Broadway

May 27th, 2009
<strong>Shrek is part of Broadway's 'monster' transition to social media marketing.</strong>

Shrek is part of Broadway’s “monster” transition to social media marketing.

According to Variety.com, a growing number of Broadway producers and marketers are using sites such as Facebook, MySpace, and Twitter to craft creative social media marketing campaigns for their shows. “Shrek the Musical” has launched its own social networking site (shrekster.com, known as “a place for theatreogres”), while the character-based online narrative created by the show “Next to Normal” (twitter.com/n2nbroadway) has attracted a following of more than 100,000 on Twitter. It’s all part of what one Broadway marketer refers to as “a monster transition in how shows are marketed.”

Social media sites are expanding the reach of Broadway ad agencies, but they can also be more time-consuming than traditional marketing methods. “It takes a lot of people and a lot of time to hit as many eyes as we used to,” Sara Fitzpatrick, director of interactive at SpotCo, told Variety.

At Molding Web, we specialize in assisting companies that are interested in social media marketing but hesitant to engage in it because of the time commitment that may be required. To find out more about how our Internet marketing services can help your company achieve its long-term business goals, call us at 1-877-900-6932.

Pew Research: U.S. College Grads In Their 30s & 40s Driving Social Media Growth

May 26th, 2009

A major new study released last week by The Pew Research Center indicates that the proportion of college graduates and people aged 30 to 49 participating in online social networking has more than doubled over the past two years. The study, which is titled Trends in Political Values and Core Attitudes: 1987­­-2009, features 11 sections on topics such as Religion and Social Values, Foreign Policy and Global Engagement, and Social Networking, Science and Civil Liberties.

social-networking-by-age-group1

Online social networking is “no longer just for the young,” according to Pew. Though the 18-29 demographic remains the best represented group on sites like Facebook and Twitter, with 70% of 18-29 year olds using social media sites, the greatest growth has occurred among those aged 30-39 and 40-49. As of April, 43% of 30-39 year olds use social networking sites, up from 21% in December 2007, and 29% of 40-49 year olds are networking online, up from 11% in December 2007.

Most of this growth is taking place among college graduates. In December 2007, only 20% of college grads were active on social networking sites. That figure now stands at 42%, surpassing both high school grads (39%) and those with some college education (24%).

social-networking-frequency

Pew also reports that online social networkers are “checking in daily, or more often” to their favorite social media sites. “Nearly one-in-five of those who use social networking sites (19%) say they visit these sites several times a day, while another 24% say they visit about once a day,” the study says.

At Molding Web, we believe this continued growth in daily online engagement can enable businesses to reach new customers and build stronger relationships with existing customers via social media marketing. We also offer search engine optimization, content writing, and other Internet marketing services that are designed to support the organic, long-term business goals of our clients.

Report: Americans Surviving Recession by Spending More Time on Social Networking Sites

May 12th, 2009

A recently released report by Rockbridge Associates and the Robert H. Smith School of Business at the University of Maryland states that increased online social networking is one of the primary ways in which Americans have changed their priorities in response to the current recession. The study found that 33% of Americans are spending more time communicating with friends and family through social networking sites, second only to watching television (34%) as the primary lifestyle change versus one year ago. Cutting expenses, increasing savings, and stopping 401K contributions have been the major personal changes Americans have made in the economic sphere since last year, the report says.

The report’s conclusion? Relationships win. Though consumers have reduced their spending on products, sales of services have been affected to a lesser degree. The resilience of this “customer-relationship orientation” and the likelihood that social networking will outlast the economic downturn lead Rockbridge and UM to conclude that “continuing the relationship with customers is a key strategy for service providers.”

The way to do this, of course, is to go where the customers are. As user numbers continue to climb for sites like Facebook and Twitter, the social media marketing services we provide at Molding Web can help your business to connect with the growing number of Americans who are making use of these services.

Quality Content: The Missing Element of SEO

May 5th, 2009
<strong>The Content Optimization Monkey: His favorite keyword is 'banana.'</strong>

Here’s something you won’t hear very often from a search engine optimization company: most optimized content writing is inferior to other types of content writing.

While it’s important to have content writers who understand the basics of SEO and keyword placement, these qualities should not permit the SEO industry to hold itself to a lower standard. SEO writers have to accomplish the same things as all other online content writers. They must capture their readers’ attention, and they must do so with a message that is clear, compelling, and succinct. They must understand their subject matter, the interests of their readers, and the needs of the company for which they’re writing.

Unfortunately, though the search engine optimization industry has been around for more than a decade, a significant divide still remains between the quality of SEO content writing and the quality of the copywriting produced in the Internet marketing and online retail sectors.

Why is this such a persistent problem?

One important reason is that even though most search engine optimization companies take great pains to talk about how their content team writes with both human readers and search engine crawlers in mind, the latter always trumps the former. The measures by which SEO content services define success are keyword density and organic search engine rankings, not lively prose or a well-focused marketing message that will build a brand or increase conversion rates.

Another reason is that cut-rate content writing services tend to dominate the search engine rankings for the SEO industry. Online companies that view SEO as a get-rich-quick scheme are content to pay pennies a word for “original” content, so long as their keywords are crammed into it like disgruntled New York City subway commuters. Such content often fails to meet basic standards of spelling and grammar, never mind marketing effectiveness.

SEO is also too often seen as a standalone marketing tactic rather than one element of a comprehensive Internet marketing strategy. Poorly written SEO articles might do the job if your sole objective is search engine rankings, but what happens when visitors arrive on your site? Savvy web surfers can spot SEO bait very quickly. It’s not enough to get them in the door. You have to offer them content that has value, whether that value comes in the form of information, insight, or entertainment.

At Molding Web, we’re committed to providing content writing services that will help our clients create an image that is professional, purposeful, and articulate. Along with optimized content writing, we offer blog writing, article writing, press release writing, and social media marketing services. For more information about Molding Web’s professional content writing services, call 1-877-900-6932.

Hospitals & Social Media Marketing

April 30th, 2009

Depending on which source one cites, there are anywhere from 5,000 to 7,500 hospitals in the United States. Of these, only about 240 are using social networking tools such as YouTube channels, Facebook Pages, Twitter accounts, and blogs, according to Ed Bennett, director of Web strategy at the University of Maryland Medical System. Bennett was quoted this week in a story that the Minneapolis-St. Paul Star Tribune ran about the Mayo Clinic and Lee Aase, Mayo’s manager for syndication and social media. Thanks to Aase, Mayo has been establishing a strong social media presence via YouTube, Facebook, Twitter, and its blogs.

Internet marketing can provide very positive benefits for hospitals and the patients they serve. As we wrote about earlier this month, the St. Louis Children’s Hospital’s search engine optimization efforts helped make it the hospital of choice for a mother whose son has cerebral palsy. The Star Tribune’s story lists several examples of videos that have drawn viewer interest and attracted patients to the Mayo Clinic. And just last week, Ad-ology Research released a study which found that social media marketing has a significant impact on how patients choose a hospital or doctor.

If you’re employed at a hospital, medical clinic, or doctor’s office and are interested in establishing a stronger Internet presence, Molding Web’s Internet marketing and social media consulting services can help you to determine the right course to take, whether it be a blog, a forum, and/or social networking.

Nielsen Online’s Twitter “Retention” Claim: Irresponsible or Simply Ignorant?

April 29th, 2009

Yesterday, Nielsen Online ran an entry on the Nielsen Wire blog titled Twitter Quitters Post Roadblock to Long-Term Growth. In it, David Martin, Nielsen Online’s Vice President of Primary Research, claimed that on a month-to-month basis Twitter fails to retain more than 60% of its users. Today, everyone from writers at Business Week, PC World, and The Christian Science Monitor to social media marketing bloggers trumpeted the story as proof that Twitter is nothing but hype. But upon closer inspection it appears that Nielsen Online’s post was either ignorant or irresponsible.

In the blog post, Martin provides no documented statistics to back up Nielsen’s claim, nor does he give any indication of Nielsen’s methodology. The term used, “audience retention,” suggests that Nielsen measured page views or site visits rather than actual use of the micro-blogging service. Martin then compounds this problem by comparing the Twitter retention rate “statistics” created by Nielsen to similar statistics for Facebook and MySpace when they were at an audience level similar to Twitter’s, and suggesting that Twitter has not succeeded at the same level as the two social networking sites.

But there’s an enormous problem both with this comparison and with Nielsen’s methodology: unlike MySpace and, until recently, Facebook (which announced an Open Stream API this week that allows users to access their feed information via third parties without going to the Facebook website), Twitter users don’t need to visit the Twitter website to engage with other users. In fact, according to the Twitter analytics service TwitStat, less than 1/3 of Twitter users access their accounts via Twitter’s web interface.

One of the unique things about Twitter—and a driving force behind its explosive popularity—has been its willingness to allow users to access their accounts via third-party applications such as Tweetdeck and TwitterFeed. According to TwitStat, Tweetdeck alone accounts for nearly 20% of all Twitter usage. In other words, judging by Nielsen’s post, a given Twitter user (such as Molding Web) that accesses his or her Twitter account via Twitter.com and then switches to using Tweetdeck would be included as a user that Twitter failed to retain. Such an assumption is not merely misleading; it displays a total ignorance of the fundamental appeal that Twitter has to smartphone users and other hyper-connected professionals.

Charity:Water, Operation of Hope Receive $100K from Wolverine

April 28th, 2009

charity-water

Charity: Water, one of the non-profit organizations that Molding Web has been following since we first joined Twitter, recently became the recipient of AUS$50,000 from X-Men Origins: Wolverine star Hugh Jackman. The Australian-born Jackman had announced on April 14 that he would pledge AUS$100,000 to the charity that could best use Twitter to persuade him that it was deserving of the funds. Charity: Water became a co-winner of Jackman’s contest thanks to a photo of Ethiopian school children that its president and founder, Scott Harrison, tweeted to Jackman. The other AUS$50,000 was given to Operation of Hope, a charity that provides surgical procedures to children born with facial deformities in developing countries.

Molding Web wishes to extend our congratulations and best wishes to Charity: Water and Operation of Hope. We encourage our readers to support both of these organizations and other groups like them—and follow them on Twitter!

Green Internet Marketing Fails to Persuade Teens

April 22nd, 2009

Today is Earth Day, and much is being written about the various successes and failures of the environmental movement. Though it may seem like environmental messages are everywhere you turn, a new survey by Generate Insight has found that green organizations could be doing a better job of capitalizing on their very positive public image among teens.

The survey targeted Millennials, the generation of people aged 13 to 29, and asked how they perceive the green movement and whether their purchasing decisions mirror those perceptions. Though the top three words associated with the green movement were responsible, smart, and cool, over 70% of respondents aged 13 to 17 said they would buy a less expensive product rather than one that gave back to the environment.

green-movement-word-association

Perhaps not coincidentally, this was the same demographic group that was least impacted by the Internet marketing efforts of environmentalists. Eighty-five percent of 13- to 17-year-olds said school was their main source of environmental education versus 79% of Millennials who learn primarily via the Internet.

Two primary points in the Generate Insight survey could benefit from renewed marketing efforts by environmentalists:

• Just 48% of 13- to 17-year-olds believe they can make a difference, because the magnitude of environmental problems is overwhelming.

• Most Millennials are unsure why environmentally friendly products are more expensive.

U.S. Latino Internet Audience Active, Growing

April 20th, 2009

us-latino-internet-audience-active-growing

Several studies have come out recently which reveal that the Latino Internet audience in the U.S. is both fast-growing and highly active:

• Last month, a study by Scarborough Research found that though their broadband use was slightly lower than the overall population, 54% of U.S. Latinos are now online, and they are 211% more likely than the average American to download digital content.

• This week, comScore reported that a record 20.3 million U.S. Latinos went online in February. Latinos now account for 11% of the total online population, and their online presence is growing more than 50% faster than the overall online population in the U.S.

• A PLYmedia study released at the end of March found that adding subtitles to online videos resulted in 80% more people watching an entire video to completion. Among Spanish-speaking audiences, the addition of subtitles increased video viewing time by nearly 50%.

Though multi-language search engine optimization and social media marketing has received some attention from online businesses, it remains a relatively undeveloped aspect of the Internet marketing sector. If your company has a sizeable or growing Latino customer base, now would be a great time to consider how Spanish-language SEO or SMM could fit into your long-term Internet marketing strategy.

Defense Researchers: U.S. Government Must Use Social Media

April 16th, 2009

A soon-to-be-released research paper from the National Defense University (NDU) asserts that the U.S. Defense Department must recognize that social media is “serious stuff with national security ramifications,” according to a story at Nextgov. The research paper contains information on both the socio-political and security ramifications of social media, from its use in organizing citizen protests to the potential security threats posed by cyber criminals or terrorists.

NDU associate research fellow Mark Drapeau stressed that it was important to be aware of the power and reach of social media tools. “If you work in national security some of these things happening in other countries may affect your job or mission. What’s happening over the past couple years is people in other countries are using Facebook, Twitter and blogs to organize. In some cases even when government security knew it was happening, they were overwhelmed by the amount of people who show up,” Drapeau told Nextgov.

Distinguished Research Professor and report co-author Linton Wells said the federal government must begin to work out a strategy for social networking. “These tools are enormously powerful, and there’s a generation gap in government as to who is using them.”

Though the government’s social media strategy and usage policies have been arbitrary to date, the Defense Department is aware of the opportunities that are available for outreach and intelligence. “Not being involved [with social media] is probably a greater risk than anything you may encounter from being involved,” Jack Holt, the DoD’s senior strategist for emerging media, told Nextgov.

Facebook Now The Sixth Most Popular Website Worldwide

April 15th, 2009

Facebook is now the sixth most popular website in the world and consumes nearly 1/3 of all time spent on social media websites in Europe. Though Facebook recently disclosed that it had passed the 200 million member mark, new data from comScore’s World Metrix service suggest that Facebook is actually used by 275 million people every month.

The comScore numbers represent a year-over-year increase of 75%, a gain which is attributable in large part to Facebook’s concerted effort to reach more countries and language groups. In Europe, for example, Facebook experienced year-over-year growth of 314%. Facebook is currently available in at least 40 languages, with another 60 or so languages still in development. Facebook’s expanding global reach and wealth of personal data is likely to make it an even more appealing venue for targeted pay-per-click marketing campaigns.

Facebook is receiving attention from more than just members and online marketers. Screenwriter, producer, and The West Wing co-creator Aaron Sorkin is currently at work on a screenplay about the site’s origins.

FTC Plans to Regulate Social Media Marketing

April 14th, 2009

Facebook has passed the 200 million user mark and companies like Coca-Cola are setting up social media communications departments. But perhaps the greatest sign yet of the growing influence of social media marketing is that the Federal Trade Commission is planning to regulate it. According to AdAge.com, the FTC is updating its guidelines to address word-of-mouth Internet marketing, i.e. bloggers and other social media users who are paid to write about a company’s products.

“The commission is attempting to update guidelines that are 30 years old so that they address current marketing techniques, and in particular to address the issue of whether or not the safe harbor that’s currently allowed for ‘result not typical’-type disclaimers is still warranted,” said Rich Cleland, assistant director of the FTC’s advertising practices division.

The FTC social media guidelines would apply only to those who are paid to promote a company’s products and services, not to individuals who post independent reviews on Facebook, Amazon, and other business or personal sites. The FTC commissioners will vote on the revisions this summer, after reviewing public comments received on the issue from groups like the American Association of Advertising Agencies.

Review Site Yelp.com Finally Lets Business Owners Speak

April 13th, 2009

Small business owners who are attentive to local search engine optimization know that Yelp.com is one of the largest user review and local search websites. They also know that it can be a source of negative reviews—both fair and unfair—that have a big impact on business. But as of this week, business owners will have the opportunity to yelp back to unsatisfied or outright hostile customers (or competitors pretending to be customers).

“Business owners for years now have been asking for more and more voice on the site,” Geoff Donaker, Yelp’s chief operating officer, told The New York Times last week. “As long as it’s done in a respectable way, it’s good for the consumer and good for the business owner.”

The change in policy comes after a long series of complaints by business owners that Yelp, which was founded in 2004, is inattentive to their needs and unwilling to provide a more balanced perspective. In February, Yelp was even accused of using the placement of negative reviews to blackmail business owners into advertising on the site; companies that paid a $299-a-month fee were allowed to choose a positive review and place it at the top of their pages.

Have You Tweeted A Ford Lately?

April 11th, 2009

Among major American corporations, Ford has built a relatively strong presence in the social media sphere. Most notably, the American car manufacturer hired Scott Monty (www.scottmonty.com) as its head of social media in June of last year. However, desperate times call for desperate social media marketing measures, and Ford is about to embark on a social media project that is unusually risky: to promote the new Ford Fiesta, which is a year away from hitting the U.S. market, Ford is providing 100 young, social media-conscious people with a Fiesta and asking them to share their experiences with the car via Twitter, YouTube, Flickr, and other social media sites.

In essence, Ford is giving up control of its own branding and promotion, and will have no say in the content of the so-called Fiesta Movement. It’s a bold move, and at the very least it will earn Ford a lot of respect for its willingness to embrace authenticity.

The 100 participants were chosen from a group of more than 4,000 people who submitted video auditions. They will receive a free car for six months, along with auto insurance and gas. Winners were chosen based on how popular their videos were online and their creativity and video skills.

The project wasn’t without opposition, as The Wall Street Journal reports:

“I was like, ‘Nah, go to Third Street Promenade in Santa Monica [Calif.], go to Royal Oak [Mich.] on a hot night with the kids out for ice cream,’” said Jim Farley, Ford’s global vice president for sales and marketing. “Pull up with 10 vehicles, give away free T-shirts, have people do test drives, broadcast the whole thing on the Web.”

Mr. Farley said his reluctance softened when a group of sons and daughters recruited from Ford’s largest dealers endorsed the six-month online effort.

“The interest in the Web [campaign] had far exceeded my expectations,” he says. “My hunch was pretty traditional.”

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