Leveraging Empire Avenue for Social Marketing

Some of you may have heard me mention Empire Avenue as a potentially great way of Gamification of your own social media marketing efforts. I only ever put it out there as a “fun idea to think about when you have time”. But as I woke up at 5:00 AM this morning, here is a little idea I am experimenting with in the game’s “Missions” which you might like to try.

I have TWO missions on the go… One is open to anybody that is playing Empire Avenue and visits this web page. Well done if you are one of them – but read on…

The SECOND mission is only open to shareholders… so anyone buying share on Empire Avenue in me will currently effectively get 500 Eaves cashback (Eaves being the currency of the game) just for subscribing to a Youtube channel.

So how is this interesting for social marketers?  Well the point is that Empire Avenue is a game where users invest in other people’s social equity! That mean that the people in the game are interested in increasing their activity in social space, but not for the same reasons as marketers. They want money, shareholders and generally stuff that makes them do better on the game. In short they need to “do” stuff in social to succeed.

Marketers in social – it seems – are trying to persuade people to “Do stuff of their own accord”. Well that – to me – sounds like a match made in heaven ( or hell, depnding on your point of view).

By linking a few of the tools in your social toolbox together, it isn’t too hard to see ways in which gamification and social media marketing can come together effectively. Just play someone else’s game!

Are you using Empire Avenue?

So… if you just came here from Empire Avenue – please go and buy some shares in me and if you are in the next 30 shareholders to take note, you’ll find a mission in your mission tab after buying that will give you 500 eaves back. (Since my shares were only around 44 Eaves when I posted this, you could even make a profit.)

If you DON”T use Empire Avenue – here are some thoughts as to why you might…

1: These people win by being socially active

2: You can search their profiles to find socially active people that can help YOU

3: You can help THEM by spending virtual money and buying shares in them

4: You can speak to your shareholders without having to send emails

5: You can see their blogs in their profiles and help them by checking them – which you need to do anyway if they are a blog in your space.

I have always said that links are about relationships… and they are… so be careful not to go too far outside your sphere of influence though. Only shareholders can see the link to the YouTube channel in their missions – so that hopefully there is a layered effect and I only get the people interested in me (and my videos) subscribing.

Interesting times eh? 🙂

Most popular search terms by letter

We occasionally see “most popular search terms” lists given out by Yahoo and Google. Here I managed to find the top ten most popular search terms by letter of the alphabet. Useful if you have a site with alphabetized content to monetize… Useful for other reasons too.

If you ever find yourself wondering what you should be promoting on the web, here’s 260 suggestions that are probably based on more scientific data than the average “idea in a pub” approach. It is the top 10 most popular suggestions by letter of the alphabet which I managed to glean from Google. The data looks to be from November 2008 and also looks to be the main google.com index from an international perspective. So… based on some pretty large numbers I would say.

A: amazon; aol; addicting games; apple; American airlines; ask.com; att wireless; at&t; abc; american express

B: best buy; barack obama; bank of America; bebo; blackberry storm; bbc; black Friday; bed bath and beyond; barnes and noble; black Friday ads

C: craigslist; cnn; circuit city; costco; currency converter; craigslist.com; clun penguin; comcast; capital one; comcast.net

D: dictionary; dell; dancing with the stars; disney channel; delta; disney; direct tv; dominos; drudge; daylight savings time

E: ebay; espn; expedia; election results; election; exchange rates; electoral college; earth; ebuddy; edward cullen

F: facebook; fox news; facebook login; food network; friendster; free online games; free games; fallout 3; flickr

G: google; gmail; google maps; google earth; games; gamestop; gap; google translate; gossip girl; google chrome

H: hotmail; home depot; Halloween costumes; hulu; hi5; Halloween; hp; Hollister; heroes; honda

I: imdb; itunes; ikea; iphone; images; Indian airways; Indian railways; isohunt; ign; irctc

J: Jennifer Hudson; jcpenney; john mccain; jobs; java; jokes; jet blue; jetstar; james bond; jonas brothers

K: Kohis; kmart; Kelly blue book; kijiji; kim kardashian; katy perry; kayak; kanye west; kristen stewart; kings of leon

L: lowes; limewire; lyrics; lil wayne; linens and things; love quotes; line rider; love; lands end; lego

M: myspace; mapquest; msn; maps; myspace layouts; miniclip; macsys; msnbc; mapquest driving directions; movies

N: nfl; Netflix; news; nbc; new york times; Nordstrom; nba; nokia; nissan; nike

O: obama; orkut; old navy; office depot; orbitz; oprah; online games; overstock; obama birth certificate; office max

P: photobucket; paypal; pizza hut; Pandora; prop 8; pirate bay; party city; papa johns; pottery barn; priceline

Q: quantum of solace; quotes; qvc; Qantas; quicktime; quiznos; quets diagnostics; qwest; quizzes; quickbooks

R: runescape; rahm emanuel; recipes; radio shack; Robert pattinson; rate my professor; rediff; reverse phone lookup; real estate; rayanair

S: sears; southwest airlines; sarah palin; skype; staples; sams club; snl; sprint; sony; Spanish translation

T: target; twilight; toys r us; ticketmaster; thesaurus; Travelocity; translator; tv guide; tmobile; thanksgiving

U: utube; ups; usps; united airlines; utorrent; ufc; urban dictionary; us airways; ups tracking; uggs

V: Verizon wireless; Verizon; Victoria secret; vic; Vodafone; video; Vanessa hudgens; virgin mobile; veterens day; virgin

W: walmart: Wikipedia; weather; white pages; www.yahoo.com; webkinz; wiki; www.youtube.com; wells fargo; web md

X: xbox360; xbox; xm radio; xe; x factor; xbox live; xboard; xkcd; xanax; xbox 360 games

Y: youtube: yahoo; yahoo mail; yellow pages; yahoo finance; yahoo answers; yahoo messenger; yahoo maps; y8; yahoo games;

Z: zappos; zip codes; zillow; zac efron; zellers; zero punctuation; zune; zeitgeist; zip codes by city; zara

I don’t know if I was part of a Google beta or if everyone with an iPhone suddenly has this data. If you have an iPhone, try going to Google.com and seeing if your data is the same as mine. If not – tell me what country you are in (I am in the UK) to see if we can work out the discrepancy.

Why is this data interesting? You may ask. Well if you are an affiliate with a large mailing list, or you have a generic site with lots of broad traffic; it’s obvious really. It should help you to monetize your assets a little better. This would be especially useful if you happen to have content already alphabetized… although of course you need to find a way to still associate the content with the keyword to have any chance of relevancy. It might also help you to consider your next online project. Be careful though… Obama may not be such a popular search term in a few months.

I thought I’d take half an hour to list them all, to see if the data is useful to anyone.

If you are looking for other data on Keywords, you could start at Google Zeitgeist offerings or use receptional’s “related keywords tool” to generate new ideas around a theme.

If the list is useful, let me know and I might do it all again sometime.

Tata For Now.


Will it Blend? A talk from the creator

Here’s how the “will it blend” campaign increased blender sales 700% from a $50 start.

Webmasterworld’s Pubcon conference in Las Vegas is into its second day and the keynote speaker it George Wright from Blendtec. They ran one of the most effective viral video campaigns – willitblend.com where they take interesting things and see whether they will blend in their blending machine.

When I say interesting things I mean things like… iphones (Video below may take a few seconds to load).

The video has 4.7 Million downloads on Youtube alone – and there are a whole series of these videos. so how does a small (very small) company in Utah suddenly get millions of people talking about their goods? Well George is speaking as I type… here’s his story.

Two or three years ago, Blendtec had great products, but a really poor brand. George went to the company owner and said he needed money for a brand awareness campaign. The boss offered $50.

So George wandered through the warehouse and manufacturing plant and found a demo area, with sawdust on the floor where the product tester was testing the strength of the products. So they made a video and put it on YouTube. He spent the $50 on the domain, a white lab coat, a MacDonald’s breakfast and a rotisserie chicken and some marbles.

Now they have 70-75 videos. Their only failure was … Chuck Norris 🙂

They sent this video to Chuck before they posted it, but they got no reply. So they posted it anyway. Months later, they got a call from a friend saying that Chuck Norris was talking about the video on a major radio station. Blendtec now had an A-list celebrity helping the product go viral.

So what makes a video go Viral? Here are some tips George learnt from his campaign.

  • Make it interesting and entertaining enough for friends to open their address book and send it to their friends.
  • Make it tie in with the corporate objective
  • Let it be sponsored by the manufacturer. Don’t go too “under the radar”
  • They based their idea on real people – in this case their product testing engineer
  • Develop interactivity – let people comment and suggest what to blend next.

(George unfortunately had those comments going to his Blackberry… which he eventually had to block!)

  • Make user subscription very easy.


George also looked at the risks of a viral campaign and suggested that the biggest risk was to NOT try it. But he also pointed out:

  • A viral campaign means you surrender control of the message upon distribution. (They had some problems with ceramic magnets… )
  • Accept that you will have public scrutiny of your content
  • Distribution is global (Is it legal in all countries)

Altogether they have acheived:

  • 65 Million views on YouTube
  • 120 Million visitors to willitblend.com
  • 200,000 subscribers
  • 700% increase in blender sales
  • Pull through increase in their other product lines

You’ve got to admit, that with that kind of pull, a salesman selling advertising is going to have a pretty hard time selling ad space to this guy.

The other types of media were pretty interested too. He showed how he was on a US program called “the Big Idea” where he blended a pack of glow stick with the light off. The kind of coverage you just can’t buy.

Viral works… They even got a mention in congress.

He finished by Blending a rake… but I’m pressing “publish” right now 🙂


The Future of Search

We as marketers will be able to target right down to the individual, influencing them at regular intervals through the day. You could very realistically deliver adverts to ONLY leaders of specific organisations, planting doubts in their core belief systems.

Tonight I am on a plane to Stockholm to talk at SMX. One of my two talks is on “The Future of SEM/SEO”. I feel honored to have been asked to talk on this topic, albeit for just 10 minutes, because my co-presenter is Bill Hunt of Global Strategies, who is also the author of “Search Engine Marketing Inc.” which he co-authored with Mike Moran.

I’ve talked on the Future of Search before, but the world really does change quickly and to me, what has been really burning on my brain recently is just what happens when marketers are able to tap into aggregated personalized data. You may or may not have stopped to think about why Facebook is free… but here’s a three minute video which will probably put those thoughts in context. But the video is only the start of the long term vision…

The video maker makes an odd conclusion at the end, which I don’t agree with, but in any event, this is the tip of the iceburg really. What happens when the Facebook data is overlaid with data from (say) ping.fm or another service that links all your logins together, and then this data is linked with data continually transmitted back to base from (say) your web browser and overlaid again with the profiles of people going to sites tracked using and analytics system that reports back to the mother ship?

What will happen is the complete opposite of the video makers end piece. We as marketers will be able to target right down to the individual, influencing them at regular intervals through the day. You could very realistically deliver adverts to ONLY leaders of specific organisations, planting doubts in their core belief systems. Darren Brown would have a field day. Don’t believe me? Then imagine this level of influence in Derren’s hands and see how marketers of the future (if not the present) will be able to using this. This should just about convince you:

So the non-scalable part of Derren’s trick here is the amount of effort he went to in the above video to be able to do that trick. But an aggregated media database able to target you right down to your choice of passwords gives a scalable way to completely change a person’s view on almost anything.

So I do not see an explosion of consumption as the first video suggests, I see the change for this system to change advertising from charging a few pennies per thousand ad impressions, to charging a few thousand just to be able to control the messaging seen by almost a single individual.

I do not know how you can possibly regulate such an industry. Who would be able to say what was advertising and what was coersion? One is a clever profession, whilst the other is illegal in many countries. Definiing an ethical standard as an advertiser is really important here. This can be used for good – persuading Amy Winehouse to go to rehab of her own accord, or targeting would be criminals to help them change their ways. But it could also be a force for evil – getting people to gamble when they are most desprate for money – or turing an honest man into a religious fanatic or terrorist.

Or what if you used it to overthrow a government legitimately? Imagine if you could convince people that Obama was a muslim? or that the Earth was only 6,000 years old. In the face of every fibre of your being knowing these things can’t be true, I wonder how many people you could get believing such fantasies?

Bill Gates tries to get Viral

Bill Gates and Seinfeld are doing some viral Videos together. Bill’s not a bad actor… but WHO wrote the script?

On Mel’s UK Internet Marketing Blog today there are a few new-to-me videos showing Bill ates and the Seinfeld chap wandering around middle America doing weird stuff. I don’t get it… but maybe I’m TOO British.

Microsoft “Quality Index” uncovered

Microsoft reveal many of the underlying factirs that affect their AdCenter Quality Index Score, giving you an edge in lower cost adverts, and quicker “submission to Live” times.

Microsoft are to start filtering PPC advertisers by market segment and website type in the UK, so that they can better use this segmentation to improve their “Quality Index”, the equivalent of the Google AdWords “Quality Score”. The changes are already integrated into the US Ad-Center listings but are likely to come to the UK over the next few months.

The news was met mostly with approval at AdChamps Europe. Mary Berk from Microsoft took us through much of their thinking about their Quality Index algorithm and for once I made some notes, which I hope you’ll find useful. I started taking real notice when I realized that Microsoft had already started rolling out “QI” improvements in the US, but that these had not yet come to the UK. This made me realize why chatter on the boards tends to be so inconsistent feedback-wise.

Mary highlighted that some of the things that matter in their interpretation of quality included “Market Segment” and “ad-style” as well as some of the more usual things that we have come to expect from Google. By way of example, we heard that aggregaters may get hit and have to pay more to stay in the running. She also stated that MFA (Made for “Adverts” as she cleverly described it) would also take a big hit. Other sites that effectively rearranged search may find themselves having issues, but she also admitted that this was also hard to get right, and it was likely that unique content would be one of the main differentiators between a site that gets penalized and one that doesn’t.

Interestingly, some searches were done on the fly in the room and on the whole, the US users do seem to be seeing far less of these kinds of results in the paid search results. Expedia was a notable exception, though arguably their content is plenty unique enough.

It seems that the system is able to – both algorithmically and manually – segment sites into types as well as markets and the quality team can then make decisions and set up filters at several levels within the system. I take this to mean that their Quality team will be able to assign rules affecting your bid price either by segment or individually.

Microsoft are not stopping there, however. Mary also went on to say that Microsoft have also developed more sophisticated “user intent” algorithms. The example of where this might be important was if a person typed in “pick up trucks” and the advertiser bid on the phrase “pick up”, but offered an advert about “Pick up lines”. Clearly a mismatch which will not be fixed by the advertiser and would only be fixed by the user by repeating the search… not necessarily using the same engine! It is this propensity for people to jump AWAY from Microsoft’s offering when they get just one bad experience that is really driving this “QI” initiative, it would appear. Mary gave some overwhelming statistics about just what would make people change search engines.

Mary also went on to give examples of sites that they really were targetting – hopefully to the point of elimination. In particular, they are concerned about sites that give deliberately misleading claims. For example “free” offers that might require jumping through so many hoops that they offer really is not free at all.

In fact, she gave quite a few clues as to how to get your adverts up and running without any delay… and how to get your adverts delayed of penalized. When the “QI” improvements take hold in the UK (as they are already in the USA), your history and the keywords you are taergeting or using will be affect your initial ad-launch. Certain keyords or patterns will trigger a manual review – which may happend before or after the advert goes live. If it does happen after the advert goes live, however, their objective will be to carry out the review withing 48 hours. Trigger words will include the word “free”. Whether the advert goes live immediately or not will largely depend on how much of a good submission history you enjoy as an advertiser or agency. Long standing “good guys” are likely to get the benefit of the doubt – at least initially.

The objectives seem to be twofold:

  1. To get 90% of all new adverts live within minutes – not hours.
  2. To make it harder (more expensive) for non-original content to dominate the PPC results.

It will be interesting to see how sites like Moneysupermarket fare under this regime in the UK… as they are a price comparison site and aggregator, yet they are also one of the UK’s largest PPC accounts.

The Quality Index improvements are coming to the UK before the end of the summer.

Viral campaign that brought my daughter to tears

It started as a “Build-a-bear” party. It has ended in tears.

A few weeks ago my daughter went to a “Build-a-bear” party. Basically a party in a teddy bear shop where you build your own teddy bear. there’s probably all sorts of child slave labour law issues in that whole model, but the kids loved it

It started as a “Build-a-bear” party. It has ended in tears.

A few weeks ago my daughter went to a “Build-a-bear” party. Basically a party in a teddy bear shop where you build your own teddy bear. there’s probably all sorts of child slave labour law issues in that whole model, but the kids loved it and the bear comes with web access to a Build-a-bear-world… a kind of Second Life for under tens. It looks well made and the only way to get the entry code is to buy a bear in the shop… which in itself offers some protection for the kids. So I let my daughter join and – to be fair – she’s been enjoying life in Virtual reality.

Then along comes a “Celebrity Beach Party”… but here’s the scam… er …. promo. You can only get into that section of the virtual park if you go BACK to the shop and buy something else. You also get a chance to win £5,000 but that’s really not the point. My daughter just birst into tears when she realized that with all the will in the world, she couldn’t get into that part of the virtual world.

She cried.

Now – as a parent, when a child starts crying for something that clearly she doesn’t need, it’s time for a parent to put on the brakes. NO. I will not be bullied by an eight year old. Especially one that is trying to extort time and money out of me through some virtual mafia Godmother teddy bear company!

Nice try though Build-a-bear!

Here’s £30 free. Here’s some bad analytics.

Voucher codes were a great way to track marketing channels until individuals were given a scaleable way to tell their friends about them. You could call it “viral marketing” but it is being measured as channel marketing. Now promotional vouchers are starting to eat away at the brand’s margins. Here’s why.

Want £30 free from Google? Go to www.google.co.uk/advertising-offercode and get your £30 off.

Voucher codes have been a very popular way to track the effectiveness of campaigns even before the web came along. They are great because they transcend marketing mediums. You can give a voucher online to be redeemed in store or you can give a voucher code to a chap handing out calling cards on Oxford Street for redemption online. They have been working well until recently.

Now I hear rumblings. Rumblings from the affiliate community that voucher codes are killing all theit hard work. An affiliate spoends loads of time pre-selling a customer and at the last moment the buyer sees a box saying “if you have a promotional code. enter it here”. This kills the poor affiliate’s commission and gives it to some other affilate. Case in point – we went to Centerparcs last year and managed to get a discount by doing that search at checkout.

But on balance, surely the affiliates win. Well – thiose offering voucher codes win. It’s the brands that lose. 20 seconds before pushing the “sale” button and savvy internetters go to their not so favourite search engine and get a discount on something they were going to buy anywy. Everyone loves a deal. But the problem is that the voucher code as a way of tracking the source of a marketing channel is breaking down.

Last month I went to buy one of those needlessly large fridges with needless ice making and cold water facilities. (Significantly better for the environment than the half size one we had before, by the way.) We went to Currys, and found the exact one. Delivery charge… £45 extra. Since we decided that even if we could fit it into the estate (car, not house), we couldn’t carry it into the kitchen, we decided to just check online first.

The net result? We got a discount through Can’t B arsed.com after a quick trip to Google. We also got it from Dixons’, not from Curry’s. We also got free delivery.

So I’m happy. I got the deal. But as a tracking mechanism, promotional vouchers are rapidly becoming unreliable.

Oh yes… that Google voucher? I got it from a Google paid link in New Media Age this morning.

Link Building Case Study

Here’s a link building case study… redefining the phrase “satellite links” 🙂

I was looking for a good link building case study the other day. They are hard to come by. Then it dawned on me that there are plenty and that I’ve been giving Linking case studies for ages:

Link Building Video Example

I used the above bits of video in a presentation at RIMC in Iceland last week. Thanks so much to the guys there at Nordic Emarketing, as well as Joost, Dennis, Rob and Ton.

I’ll put the presentation itself up in the next few days, as I also put the presentation on Video.

Why Facebook adverts are not working

Some months back I reviewed FaceBook’s sponsored listings  and found the Click through rate to be very poor. Since then I have tried with a much larger brand and had an even more disastrous CTR. Today I think I found out at least one reason why.

I was going through Facebook and was clicking around. Just as I clicked

Some months back I reviewed FaceBook’s sponsored listings  and found the Click through rate to be very poor. Since then I have tried with a much larger brand and had an even more disastrous CTR. Today I think I found out at least one reason why.

I was going through Facebook and was clicking around. Just as I clicked, I noticed an advert saying “let’s play chess…” but by then I had clicked somewhere else. The advert that replaced the chess one was totally different. I WANTED to get to the chess advert. I started searching… but no joy. Someone had an advert targeted at me and it passed me by before I could click. It might be that I see it again, but there is a problem with the algorithm that dispalys the adverts. FaceBook should try having the advert display for about 5 pages before rotating, to ensure it gets into the “head” of the Facebook user if they really want people to start clicking.

Until they do that, or find other solutions, we are finding unacceptably low click through Rates. Mind you – since I am paying on a CPC I don’t care… but Facebook needs to fix that to generate income.