Interactive Marketing

Christmas ornamentsThe weather's warming up, and it's time to start thinking about summer vacation, barbeques, and . . . the holiday shopping season.Yes, you read that right. It's not even June, but you should already be thinking about your end-of-the-year holiday strategy.

More than ever, that strategy needs to include a smart and efficient use of mobile platforms. Shopping in general is becoming more mobile-centric, and even more so during the holidays, when shoppers want to make the most efficient use of their time and dollars. If you (or anyone other decision-makers in your company) need convincing that mobile is a must this holiday season, consider these facts:

  • Up to 65% of consumers confirm store hours and location, prices or product availability using their mobile phone before even heading to a store.
  • 52% of US consumers use their mobile phones to search for information such as product reviews and competitive pricing while they are in the store.
  • Mobile search will generate 27.8 billion more queries than desktop search by 2016. This trend has led Google to launch a new smartphone-specific crawler to return search results targeted for smartphone users.

If you don’t already have a mobile strategy in place, the time to begin planning and executing for mobile is now. Otherwise you’ll discover that it’s too late to be ready when the holiday shoppers should be lining up at your store (virtual or otherwise).

And of course, "mobile strategy" is not just a fancy way of saying "mobile website." Yes, a mobile-optimized website is a good start, but it comprises only part of a comprehensive mobile strategy. An effective mobile strategy will include a variety of tactics, such as:

  • Optimizing your listings in review sites, Google Places, location-based social media (such as FourSquare)
  • Testing new search strategies for the smartphone crawler as people search differently on their phones than on their desktop computers
  • Creating mobile-specific PPC in addition to search optimization efforts
  • Using mobile-specific functionality such as click-to-call and geo-targeting
  • Incorporating QR Codes or short URLs in off-line channels to help customers find your mobile presence

If you need help getting "mobile-ized" for the holidays, contact CDG. We'll help you assess the behavior of your current mobile visitors, set goals, develop and optimize your mobile strategy and measure your success.

Photo Credit: Joe Buckingham on Flickr

TasteOfSavings_BlogCDG is proud to announce the debut of our third iAd campaign for car insurance giant GEICO. To follow up on the success of our Wheel of Wisdom and Secret Savings Society iAds, we developed The Taste of Savings, a whimsical and lighthearted spin on the idea of “car insurance as delicious beverage.”

“The Taste of Savings” ties into the company’s new television/Internet ad campaign, in which people on-the-street are asked to take a Car Insurance Taste Test.

In the iAd, we expand on the taste test idea by inviting users to create their own Taste of Savings. Once they launch the GEICO iAd, users go through a four-step process to create their delicious blend. These engaging, game-like interfaces allow users to to collect the Value Berries, blend them up in the Sav-o-matic, fill up bottles of GEICO on an assembly line, and finally, create their own personalized label.

The iAd also provides a multitude of ways for users to further interact with GEICO—by watching the Taste Test ads, downloading ringtones and Taste of Savings wallpapers, or getting a quote at geico.com.

“The success of our previous iAds set the bar very high,” says Matthew Snyder, CDG’s creative director, “We worked hard to create an engaging and fun concept that embraces the interactivity available through the iAd platform. We couldn’t be happier with the results.”

The iAd began running earlier this week. You can see The Taste of Savings, and all other GEICO iAds by downloading the iAd Gallery App and searching for GEICO. Have Fun!

If you need a mobile advertising solution for your company, contact CDG.

Clean_currentsCDG has a history of providing interactive solutions across a broad spectrum of dynamic industries. Few industries today are more dynamic than the energy sector.  With the advent of deregulation energy companies—and their consumers—face the challenge of understanding how energy consumption is changing, evaluating options, and exercising responsible choices. Mike Koch, CDG's Director of Business Development and owner of Firefly Farms takes a look at what’s on the horizon for the energy industry and discusses how interactive media can help bring the picture into focus.

I am a small business owner, interactive marketing professional, capitalist, and committed environmental protectionist.

Over the last few months, these sometimes conflicting passions have led me to educate myself on an industry that touches our lives and wallets virtually every moment of every day: energy consumption. 

One of the big questions consumers are asking themselves is: “How can I ensure what I consume is locally and sustainably produced?”  Witness the resurgence in our local food markets.

Framing that question around energy consumption, I started to wonder how many of us as consumers even wonder where we derive the electric current that literally powers our lives.  (Is it generated from oil? coal? wind? nuclear reactors? natural gas? Where is it generated?  What is its impact on our environment?) How many of us don’t bother to ask the questions, and simply take for granted that the lights will go on and the devices will recharge?

Educating Consumers Online

The energy industry is a heady, politically-contentious sphere where long-held monopolies fight for survival and consumer behavior is hard to change.  As one of many Maryland business owners who recently testified in the Maryland State Legislature regarding proposed Marcellus Shale Drillinga.k.a. “fracking”I’ve witnessed this contention first-hand.

However, in many states these energy markets are actively being restructured to increase competition and consumer choice.  With active deregulation at work, residential and business alike need to understand our options and how to exercise the power of choice.

Continue reading "Looking at Energy: Choice, Responsibility & Connection" »

Over the past week, there’s been a lot of digital ink spilled over Susan G. Komen for the Cure’s decision to pull funding from Planned Parenthood, and its swift about face.

Taking the politics out of the situation, Komen has provided a textbook example of how to severely—and possibly irrevocably—damage your brand. Its bungling of the original announcement, its initial silence (while Planned Parenthood went on a PR/social media offensive), its feeble attempt to reframe its policy decision, and finally its sheepish reversal, had the cumulative effect of tarnishing its image as a non-partisan advocate for women’s health and angering supporters on both sides of the issue.

But rather than piling on about the mistakes made by Komen, we wanted to focus on an organization that did all the right things last week in terms of messaging, outreach, and brand positioning: The Ms. Foundation for Women. This high-visibility non-profit organization took swift and immediate action to address the situation in a way that promoted their organizational goals and advanced their cause.

After Komen’s initial announcement, the Ms. Foundation worked quickly to figure the most effective way to shape its message, reach its supporters, and inspire them to take action. In less than 72 hours, Ms. Foundation supporters had a message urging them to donate to “The Ms. Foundation Stands with Planned Parenthood.” Supporters learned that Ms. would match their donations dollar-for-dollar up to a total of $40,000.

Launching the campaign involved a great deal of planning and fast-thinking. “Rapid response involves a lot of moving parts,” said Kelly Parisi, Vice President, Marketing and Communications for the Ms. Foundation. “With the Ms Foundation stands with Planned Parenthood, there were so many elements . . .  from identifying what we were going to call this campaign, to how we were going to message our response, and getting the website up and able to accept donations correctly. Adding the element of a matching campaign proved another layer of complication, because there were a lot of pieces that needed to get lined up before we could launch it and put the press release out.”

The campaign proved to be highly effective. Within 30 minutes of sending the initial email, the Ms. Foundation had received 27 donations. Yes, you read that correctly—nearly one donation per minute. And donations continue to roll in.

“It was a really galvanizing issue for people,” said Parisi, “And also I think the immediacy of it was helpful. People who are very passionate about this issue were excited about the ability to take their dollars even further.”

Given that the Komen Foundation reversed its decision the following day, it’s safe to say that immediacy was the most essential key to the Ms. Foundation’s success. With an effective message, a clear mission, and a rapid, disciplined response, the Ms. Foundation was able to transform its supporters’ outrage into action—and dollars—for Planned Parenthood.

If your company has an opportunity to launch a successful, time-sensitive campaign, follow the Ms. Foundation's example:

  1. Develop a simple, coherent message and call to action
  2. Have the technology in place to launch a rapid response
  3. Reach out to your audience as quickly and thoroughly as possible

If you need help with your online marketing strategies or technology platform, contact CDG. We'll help you get everything in place so you're ready to react.

Pinterest-growth-metrics-2011
With a phenomenal growth rate in the last 6 months to 3.3 million users and counting—and a mostly female user base—the young photo-based social network Pinterest has suddenly grabbed a lot of attention.

As a result, brands and businesses are wondering how (and whether) they can use Pinterest for marketing. Some initial case studies are showing the way.

But first: what the heck is Pinterest, anyway?

How Pinterest Works

An online version of a pinboard or wall corkboard, Pinterest allows users to organize photos into collections called boards, each of which can be categorized by type of image.

Photos are added to Pinterest either by uploading them or “pinning” them from a website using a browser bookmarklet (snippet of code).

As on all social networks, users on Pinterest can follow other users. The main page of Pinterest presents a feed of all of the images that have been pinned by users you follow, which you can then “like” or easily repin to one of your own boards. (This activity may feel familiar to users of Tumblr which has a similar ease-of-use for resharing content.)

Individual “pins” can also be commented on. When they’ve been pinned from an originating source, there’s a link from the image back to that website.

How to Use Pinterest to Market Your Business

There are a variety of specific ways to use Pinterest, from holding contests to conducting market research and creating boards of photos from a property for sale. (See the articles in the Further Reading section, below, to read some great case studies.)

No matter what specific use is best for your business, a few principles apply when marketing via Pinterest.

  • Don’t just promote yourself. This is a best practice for all social media, but it pays to remember it here. Pinterest provides a unique opportunity to build an image around your brand or business, so look for complementary pins that connote the same ideas as your business. Bergdorf Goodman’s pins both product images to trend boards and book covers to a board called “The Books on Our Shelves.”
  • Showcase your image content. Seems obvious right? But it’s not just about beautiful photography you took or of your products. NBC’s Today Show, for example, pins photos of travel destinations it has featured on the show.
  • Be strategic with your boards. Group pins in ways that appeal to your audience(s). Reaching moms? Have boards for kids’ items, parenting advice, mommy quotes or any other subject matter relevant to them, and to you.
  • Engage with users. Keep in mind that people on Pinterest may already be pinning images from your business. When you find them, comment on them, repin them to your own boards, and follow the users.
  • Show your process. Use Pinterest to brainstorm ideas with internal teams, letting followers (and potential customers) in on the process. They’ll be more invested in the final product you create at the end.

Further Reading About Pinterest

These articles provide a wealth of specific uses, individual use cases, and companies to follow on Pinterest once you join.

Your Turn

  • Are you on Pinterest yet?
  • How are you using it, and why?

Wondering if Pinterest is right for your business? CDG Interactive helps companies like yours choose the best social media channels to support their marketing strategies. Contact us today to get started.

Google+ participation impacts search ranking and now it's part of the search results, too. You ignore it at your peril. Here's what you can do.
At the end of our post last month on “5 Things To Know About Google+ Pages for Business,” we wrote “participating in Google+ [is] almost a necessity for search engine optimization. Ignore it at your peril.”

Just weeks later, you can scratch “almost” from that sentence. Google+ matters for SEO, period.

Why Google+ Matters for SEO

Earlier this month on Social Media Examiner, author Kristi Hines presented a convincing case for the impact a robust Google+ presence has on search results for her name and business: her rankings in the search results were not only affected by having a Google+ profile, but were actually different for people who were following that profile on Google+.

In other words, you rank more highly in Google when your logged-in Google+ followers search for keywords related to your business.

Then on Jan. 10 Google announced an actual integration of information from your Google+ social graph into its search results which it calls “Search, plus Your World.” (“Search, plus”—get it?)

Now you’ll get what it calls Personal Results integrated into your search results when you’re signed in to Google, including information that was shared only with you—via Google+ of course.

As Mashable explained the next day in the aptly titled “Google Merges Search and Google+ Into Social Media Juggernaut,” “Google+ circles, photos, posts and more will be integrated into search in ways other social platforms can only dream about.” (And by "other social platforms," they mostly mean Twitter and Facebook.)

Oh, and Google+ profiles are now part of the search query box when you’re signed in. Type in someone’s name and matches through your Circles on Google+ will pop up first.

Update July 26, 2012: Early reports indicate that Google search engine results are now factoring in and displaying the most actively discussed posts on Google+. This places additional weight on links that aren't just added to Google+ but are interacted with by followers on that platform.

What You Can Do About It

Hines’ Social Media Examiner article has good, step-by-step instructions on how to leverage Google+ to your advantage, both for your own profile and your business’s page. We recommend reading through them carefully.

The bottom line is this: If your business is not on Google+, now is the time to start. Even if you only have a few minutes a day to spend, give it some attention.

The “Search, plus” integration is only going to get stronger.

Need help sorting through the brave new world of Google+? Let CDG help you navigate the waters. Get your life line today.

CDG_google_plus

Now that Google+ Pages for businesses have been up and running for a month, we’ve had a chance to get some hands-on experience.

While it’s still early days—Google plans to continue rolling out features, such as page analytics and the ability to schedule posts—we’ve already learned a few aspects to watch out for.

5 Things to Know About Google+ Pages for Businesses

1. You need a Google+ individual profile first. Very similar to the way Facebook Pages work, you must first have an individual Google+ account and profile before you can create a page. But unlike Facebook, as of right now a page can only be controlled by the profile account that created it. In other words, there can only be one administrator—and that control can’t be passed to another Google+ account. How to create a Google+ Page for business.

[Update 12.20.11: Google+ now allows multiple page administrators.]

Tip: Be very careful in choosing which Google+ account to use when creating your Google+ Page.

2. Profiles can follow anyone first; Pages can’t. On Google+, groups of users you follow are organized into lists called Circles. Following another G+ user is called “circling” because you follow them by adding them to one of your Circles.

When you are using Google+ as an individual, you can circle any other Google+ user. But as a Page, you can only circle users who have already circled you. Add People to Google+ Page Circles.

Tip: Promote your Google+ page once it’s created by adding the G+ badge to your site and sharing the Page link through your individual Google+ profile as well as other social media channels, like Facebook and Twitter. Once others have circled you, you can begin to circle them back.

3. Unlike Profiles, Pages can’t “+1” everything. The +1 button is Google’s version of Facebook’s Like button. When acting as a Page, you can’t +1 another Page or content from the Web. You can +1 another individual user’s posts.

Tip: Make sure you understand the differences between what Profiles can do and what Pages can do.

4. You must choose the Page category of Local Business or Place to associate your Page with your existing Google Places listing. This is the only category that asks for location information, such as country and phone number. When you enter your phone number, Google looks to see if it matches an existing Google Place listing and use that information for your Page.

Note: Right now, it doesn’t appear that your Place is then linked back to your Page—but don’t be surprised if Google integrates or even combines these features in the future.

Tip: If your business has a Google Places listing, choose “Local Business or Place” as the category for your Google+ Page.

5. Once your Page is created, you can’t change its category. As of right now, once a Page is created you can only edit the following information:

  • Business name
  • Tagline (the line of text immediately under the business name)
  • Introduction text
  • Contact info
  • Website
  • Links to other sites

And of course you can upload photos and videos. Here’s what CDG Interactive’s Page looks like—and circle us while you’re there!

Tip: Think carefully about the category that best fits your business before you create your Page. If you want to make a change later, the only workaround is to create an additional Page in that category and then delete the original. Less than ideal, to be sure.

None of these current shortcomings, however, are a reason to avoid creating a Google+ Page for your business. Many of them will be addressed in the weeks and months to come. More importantly, Google is increasingly incorporating both the +1 button and Google+ content into its search results—which makes participating in Google+ almost a necessity for search engine optimization. Ignore it at your peril.

Are you bewildered by Google+? We’ll guide you through. Contact CDG Interactive for help creating your Google+ Page—and a presence for your business on any other social media channel, from Facebook to YouTube.

SavethedateqrAs we’ve written about before, QR codes are rapidly expanding in adoption and use by mobile marketers. Just how widespread are they?

Let’s take a look at a day (and more) in the life of QR codes …

I open my pile of unread mail and among the catalogs and credit card offers I’m delighted to see I’ve received a Save the Date wedding announcement for friends of mine. There’s a QR code on the announcement; when I scan it with my phone, it adds the wedding to my calendar and also directs me to a microsite with the wedding registry.

I see they’re registered at Brookstone, so I decide to go to my local store to look at something from their registry. In the store, QR codes next to the product let me access videos and product reviews from other customers.  

My friends are getting married in another state, so I have to travel to the wedding. When it’s time to depart, I check in to my flight on my phone; the airline issues me a mobile boarding pass that will be scanned at the gate for totally paperless ticketing.

After I park at the airport, I scan the QR code in the bus kiosk to alert the shuttle driver that I’m there so he can come to pick me up.

As I walk through the airport, I scan some of the QR codes on the store windows to access specials at restaurants and lounges.  

I get to my destination and while I’m waiting for my bags, I notice a poster ad for a local restaurant. I scan the code to see their specials and another to call and make a reservation.

As I head around town, I don’t have to worry that my travel guide is out of date, because QR codes next to restaurant and attraction listings direct me to updated reviews, pricing, hours and information. I can even access Google Maps with specific spots marked for excellent photo opportunities.

It’s a great wedding and I’m glad to see my friends so happy. But when I get home I have just one thought—how can I incorporate QR codes into my next marketing campaign?

To see several of these examples and more, check out CDG Interactive’s presentation “Real World/Digital World: 11 Ways to Bridge the Gap With QR Codes” on SlideShare.

Your Turn 

  • What are your favorite examples of QR codes?
  • Are you using QR codes in your marketing campaigns?

Amp up your marketing efforts by reaching mobile customers with QR codes. CDG Interactive can put together an effective marketing strategy using mobile, social, search and more. Contact Us to learn more.

[Image of Save the Date card with QR code from QReate &Track.]

As this graphic using data from Advertising Age shows once again, marketing campaigns aren't one size fits all. Knowing who your target customer is will help you understand where to find them--by channel and device--and when.

Media Consumption - 2011
[Created by: MBA Online]

Do you need help defining your audience and creating a campaign to reach them? Contact Us today to put together a marketing strategy that succeeds.

Cdg_page_foldIf I had a dollar for every time a client fretted over “the fold”—well, I wouldn’t be a millionaire, but I could certainly afford an iPhone 4S. The idea of a page fold (and the fear of it) is a widely accepted bit of conventional wisdom, but that’s changing. We want to do our part to explore the myth of the fold and explain: what it is, whether it still exists, and how much agita it should cause you and your marketing team.

What is the fold?

The fold is a term adopted from newspaper publishing, where the most important items were featured in at the top of the page, visible above the paper’s fold. In the interactive industry, the fold refers to the point at which the user needs to scroll to see content. Anything visible above that point is considered to be “above the fold”.

Where is the fold?

Some people argue pretty passionately that there is no fold. I’m going to simply concede that—unless all of your content can be consumed on any device (including mobile) without scrolling, that the fold does exist. But pinning down its precise location is harder than geo tagging the Loch Ness Monster. Sure, your web stats can help you approximate where the fold falls for a portion of your users. However, given the varieties of screen resolution, monitor size, browser usage, and devices available (computers vs. mobile devices) there is literally no way to know where the fold resides for all—or even most—of your viewers.

How important is the fold?

This is the big question. When clients express concern about the fold, what they’re really worrying about is the kernel at the center of the fold mythology, namely:

The Myth that Users Will Not Scroll

<sinister music>dum dum DUMMMM. . . </sinister music>

Now here’s a myth worth BUSTING.

Like most myths, this one has some basis in fact. Back in the day when dinosaurs roamed and we all had dial-up connections, scrolling wasn’t the easy breezy task it is today. In fact, AOL did not allow page-level vertical scrolling. Beyond that, we were all learning how to consume information on the web. So it’s true that users didn’t scroll – in 1994.

Times have changed. As early as 1997, usability guru Jakob Nielsen retracted his recommendation against scrolling pages. And many studies have proven that users do scroll, and even use the scrollbar itself to assess the page length. Yet in 2011 people still are afraid that any content below the fold is effectively invisible.

To be fair, above-the-fold content does get the most attention, and the most clicks. The problem is, when you try to cram everything above the fold, you short-circuit you’re the users’ attention with information overload. When every department in an organization is clamoring for their stake at the top of the homepage, you need to remind them:

When everything is important, nothing is important.

Should we just forget about the fold?

Yes and no. The fold does still exist, but its existence doesn’t lead to hard-and-fast rules. Instead of shoving everything into the top of the page, good designers will create an environment that keeps key items featured at the top, yet implies that there’s valuable content below. Jakob Nielsen calls this an “information scent”— the page layout, design and content should allow the user to pick up the expectation of more content and follow it down the page.

Instead of completely disregarding the fold, I propose that we call a fold truce. Stop fighting to place every little bit of content in the very limited space above the fold and trust the intelligence of your users. If you give them a reason to scroll and reward them with quality content that matches their expectation, you’re going to iron out that fold pretty darn fast.

Need help getting the wrinkles out of your site? Contact CDG.

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