Online Marketing Predictions 2011

In the past 10 or so years, we have seen the Internet world go from barely there, to everywhere. Years of ‘Trial and error’ in Social Media Marketing and/or Digital Advertising have brought us to the point where they have become the number one form of promoting people, products, services, and pretty much anything else you can think of.

In 2010, there were many new technologies in the social media sector. To name and talk about them all would take all day, and probably thousands of pages, and maybe even a Hollywood blockbuster (think The Social Network). Hence, a few of them will be honorably mentioned below, finishing up with some of the most popular predictions for Online Marketing in 2011.

Who didn’t catch a glimpse of the arguably brilliant Old spice campaign on YouTube this past year? The “Smell like a man, man” campaign became an instant hit. More than 180 hilarious ads were shot purely in response to consumers’ inquiries. Very clever campaign indeed.

As for the tweeters out there, you may have noticed something new on Twitter called Promoted Tweets. Twitter took a thing or two from Google here, promoting sponsored terms, along with organic results, whenever a user searched for any term on the site. Organizations such as Coca-Cola and Virgin America claimed to have seen obvious increase in campaign engagement rates as well as sales rates due to those promoted tweets.

Everyone has now heard of Chatroulette, the random video chatting website, which allows you to chat with anyone, anywhere, anytime. Other than obvious perverts takings advantage of it, Travelocity added a nice touch in their advertising on this site. They added their little Gnome character that would appear in chat rooms holding signs saying this like “This would be more fun in Rio”. The idea was to promote travel for those sitting down chatting their lives away.

The next year to come holds a few interesting predictions for digital advertising. Let’s have a small look at three of those predictions.

To start with, local advertising will become relevant again with location. Facebook is expanding this technology with its new location platform, Places. There is a growing use of location platforms such as Foursquare, Yelp, Shopkick, and Google. Advertisers will start using these to alert shoppers of certain deals or sales when informing others of their whereabouts etc… This seems really exciting for the new coming year!

In addition, influencers will be the stars of the social web. Digital advertisers are always on the lookout for new trends, and new ideas for pushing their brands and services out there. Consumers are always online checking out where to go, what to buy and where to buy it, so it is only natural that brands are always seeking the next big thing in reaching out to their consumer base. Finding ways to be socially credible is a must for brands wanting to market themselves online to already established customers, or new ones.

Finally, although it is not yet clear exactly how and why Facebook ‘Likes’ are important, but one thing is for sure, they definitely are. Brands will be using facebook advertising much more in the coming year, and being savvy enough to know how to use it to gather more ‘likes’ for the best possible CPA (cost per acquisition) may be the make or break it point for your brand.

All that being said, feel free to share you’re ideas and opinions on these new technologies. What will you be doing to increase your brand awareness this coming year?

Social Networks and Online Communities: What’s the Difference?

A major recurrent question in the minds of most people working in the online marketing world is probably the following: What is the difference between the two types of Social Media out there: Social Networks and Online Communities?

It’s easy to imagine the difference, but to actually put it down into words has proven a little more challenging, but here it goes:

Online Communities have been around for way longer than Social Networks.  Online communities are message boards or platforms that group together with one common interest of goal. Some common examples include youtube, and flickr, nested communities of video and photography enthusiasts respectively. Wikipedia is another good example of an online community.

Basically, online communities are held together by a common interest. It may be a certain hobby or something the members are passionate about. It could be a common goal, project, or merely the similar lifestyle choices, geographical locations, or professions.

When someone says ‘Social Network’, the first thing that probably comes to mind is Facebook (Thank you makers of the movie ‘The Social Network’!).  Facebook, MySpace, and LinkedIn are the most popular social networks out there.  Social networks are joined so that people can maintain their current relationships with their friends and family, get in touch with long lost friends, keep in touch, and stay in touch with said friends and family.

The one major visible difference between Social Networks and Online Communities lies in the fact that in social networking, people usually know the people they are connected to in person, whether as friends, family, colleagues etc… In Online Communities, it could be a gathering of strangers with one common goal/interest connecting them, such as Digg, a place for people to discover and share all sorts of interesting news links from all over the world.

Artificial Intelligence and the Social Network

An interesting interview at the 2010 web 2.0 summit with Digital Sky Technologies CEO Yuri Milner, underlined a potential game changing factor that would revolutionize the way we perceive social networks within the upcoming decade. Towards the middle of the interview, Milner talks about Facebook having all the necessary ingredients to transform from the social platform – as we know it today – into an artificially intelligent network learning and influencing billions of people simultaneously.

Naturally, the emergence of AI in the social network would give birth to a new digital marketing spectrum and put forward yet another set of challenges before creative strategists.

“Is it possible that one day, marketing strategies will be computed and presented to the client by the medium itself? Are great marketing minds going to be replaced by data crunching super processors? Are marketing firms going to become obsolete?”

There’s no need to panic just yet. On the contrary, evolution shows us that human beings are selfish enough to make sure that artificial intelligence remains confined within the algorithms of subordinate machines, computing in favor of human supremacy.

In fact, AI in the future will present marketing specialists with unprecedented data about consumer behavior, in addition to a platform that will allow for simulation of strategic plans and the test-driving of experimental marketing ideas without the need to spend a dime and risk a campaign flop.

How will it work? Well, it’s quite simple. Super machines will compute endless numbers and parameters in order to filter and customize information that would normally take a human many years to accomplish. Putting all this in a marketing perspective, super machines will give marketing specialists accurate data on consumer behavior and will compute the outcome of a proposed strategy forecasting whether or not it will achieve its objective. Imagine having that entire arsenal during a client’s pitch: How much time and energy would you save trying to convince that client to opt for your ideas?

We would be interested to hear about your input on AI, share with us your thoughts on the matter and leave us a comment.

Arabic Online Marketing Opportunities in the MENA Region

There are several contributing factors that lead to the obstacles that both new and established businesses aiming to expand their focus internationally must face. One of the most difficult of these to overcome is the language barrier that can exist between foreign countries. A good example of this is Europe. Though there is a prominent overall market, the many different languages existing here in its various countries create much more fragmented markets for these smaller commercial enterprises. On the other hand, Egypt and the several countries of the Arabian Peninsula all share one common language, Arabic.

The MENA region (i.e. Middle East and North Africa) is currently a very wealthy region and is growing at exponential rates. As of 2007, the population in the region was approximately 157 million and is expected to practically double in only four decades time. Not only is their population staggering, they also have some of the most impressive per-capita incomes across the globe. Qatar, for example, at $84,833, is the third highest in the world! According to the US Department of State, the UAE isn’t that far behind either, at $38,108! Considering the fact that the MENA region houses an extraordinary percentage of the world’s natural gas and oil reserves, the MENA countries are expected to respectively increase their GDP’s. Thus, making the region a prime market for American companies that are considering taking their businesses abroad.

Trade and the Vertical Market Factor

It would be safe to infer, that one of the main reasons for such market success in the MENA region is the fact that for the most part, trade is free. Only few exceptions, such as the trading of tobacco and alcohol have very high tariffs (between 50-100% overall) since Islam is the official religion of the MENA countries. Not to mention, pork and pork products are banned entirely. Aside from these very few trade impediments, exporting to these countries is by far very affordable and considerably risk-free.

As is widely known, the most viable vertical markets coming from the US are in the technology are services departments. And since many of the MENA currencies are tied to the US dollar, there has not been much significant instability as to their respective values. Aside from the lack of value fluctuations regarding these currencies, several Gulf countries have set a target date to implement a single common Gulf currency as early as 2010! Once again, such trends and predictions implicate the MENA region to be profitable place for investment and profitability.

Is Online Marketing in the MENA region a Viable Investment?

The simple answer to that question is, yes. According to Internet World Stats, the MENA countries have a total online presence of about 23 million! There has been a 1,044% growth over the last seven years alone. Although Saudi Arabia and Egypt make up of 80% of the Internet users, most of the money is in the remaining 20%. Since Saudi Arabia and Egypt are countries with such high potential, they will most likely be the ones to create the most increase in online presence in the future. These would therefore be the most advantageous countries to approach regarding online marketing strategies within the MENA region.

The MENA Language Barrier Issue

As mentioned earlier, the most beneficial connection among these countries is their common language. Arabic, as spoken in all of the MENA countries, is actually the seventh largest of all languages found online. This entails around 60 million users (that’s 4.2 of the internet population entirely!) In despite of that, only approximately 0.5% of Arabic content is represented online. The only logical solution that I can see here is that the global market needs to pay much more attention to this demand and supply at least a portion of their site content in Arabic. This would greatly expand their reach to already thriving markets.

Another thing to keep in mind is the fact that the three most widely used search engines in the MENA region are Yahoo, Google and MSN Live. These, of course, do vary slightly between countries but consistently remain the top three. Therefore, one should keep in mind that companies trying to expand their reach to these countries should make sure to craft their online marketing strategy to include the three. This would lead to a significant improvement in their results.

In Conclusion

Though the Middle East and North Africa is fertile ground for any company or organization’s global expansion, it is still in its early stages of growth. Because of this, now is definitely the time to get involved in this Arabic-speaking market with online marketing campaigns before the competition gets fierce…. and by the looks of it, it definitely will.

Eastline Marketing offers successful online marketing solutions for companies that wish to target Arabic Internet users, mainly Lebanon, Qatar, Dubai, KSA, Egypt, Jordan, Morocco, Yemen, and Algeria.

Contact us for more details!

10 Tips to Become a Digital Marketing Guru

Online and Social Marketing are fast becoming the most popular, and in some cases, most effective means of reaching potential customers and clients.

In this particular article inspired from a recent post on Mashable, you aspiring digital marketers out there will get a few tips on techniques and practices to help you excel in this fresh and exciting field.

1- Experience, Experience, Experience!
Getting hands on marketing experience is one of the first things to do. You don’t need a degree in Marketing to gain valuable experience. The best way is to do an internship at a company or agency that has a major focus in online or digital marketing. Also, having something to add on your CV is a definite plus.

2- Be very familiar with the Jargon
In a nutshell, to excel in this field, you need to be able to analyze marketing campaigns to understand what works and what doesn’t. Therefore, you need to be pretty knowledgeable with industry lingo. There are many courses available at your disposal, both online and offline that are really helpful and educational.

3- Build an online presence
This one might be the deciding factor between two people getting a certain job. An employer might simply choose the person with the most online presence, or ‘personal brand’. If you can show that you can build your ‘personal brand’ online, then others will rest assured you can do the same for them.

4- Dabble in a bit of everything, but specialize in one thing
Marketing is a broad field, with so many disciplines within it, such as search marketing, affiliate, email, mobile, display etc… The best way to really get the best experience all around is to dabble in all of it. Then focus on one of the avenues and excel in it. Having a specialty inevitably makes you an expert in that field, thus a valuable asset to anyone hiring.

5- Get in the mix- Attend any and all industry meetings and conventions
Get out there and get ‘social’. Great networking possibilities are offered at Digital Marketing Conferences, as well as opportunities to fine tune your skills in their workshops.

6- Stay up to date
This industry is ever changing and evolving, and to stay on top of things you have to make sure to keep up with all latest news and trends. The most effective means of doing that would be to subscribing to industry blogs and newsletters.

7- Get technical
It’s always a major plus to know the basics of coding (CSS, HTML, Javascript, Ruby), and how the web works in general. As a Digital Marketer you will be working closely with developers or designers on various aspects of marketing design.

8- Perfect your CV
It’s always good to make your CV stand out from others. Be creative. Get certified. For ex ample, Google offers a certification program for Adwords. Certification proves proficiency. Also, get your CV on LinkedIn and start asking for recommendations on there.

9- Be passionate and curious
This could easily be just a simple philosophy to follow in all aspects of your life, personal and professional. To always be on the lookout for the ‘why’ behind the ‘what’. Doing that, inevitably you will become more aware of trends out there. Knowing how and when to ask the right questions is an asset, especially in the Digital Marketing world.

10- Get off the computer and get some fresh air!
Staring for hours at the computer all day long can take a toll on your body and mind, not to mention social life. A wise man in the industry once said,“Because transparency is important, it’s important to be a good person in the real world,” he says, “It’ll translate into the digital world — you can’t fake being a good person if you’re a jerk in real life. Unplug for your own sanity, but also to continue growing as a person in life.”

Creating an Online Strategy with a Limited Budget

We are living in an era of economical downturn. Most businesses worldwide were affected by the credit crunch and in turn had to make obvious cuts in marketing budgets; a worldwide scenario that puts a strain on marketing strategists to come up with campaigns that generate maximum performance with limited budgets.

High risk proposed strategies get thrown in the trash can, and the demand for measurable performance has become a requirement in every marketing strategy.

Fact: “The most measurable medium in marketing is by far the online realm”

Solution: “Leverage the online medium without diluting budget”

Below are five tips that will help you create effective online strategies with a limited budget:

1-    Technology: Look for new “open source” technologies that will give you leverage over their code. Huge Social Networks, such as Facebook or Twitter, give you flexibility with their APIs. So, taking advantage of their products is the way to go!

2-    Production: Don’t waste your time and money in creating redundant modules or applications that mimic functions that are already existent and tested. For example, instead of developing a website or micro site from scratch in order to run an online contest, use pre-developed social solutions such as the Sweepz app. This will save you time and money.

3-    Targeting: It is very easy to dilute your budget using online advertising, mainly because online gives you the possibility to reach a wide audience at an affordable cost, when comparing to offline media. Anyone can run an online ad on some of the leading online networks around but don’t be fooled by the low costs of clicks (CPC), always refer to qualified professionals with online advertising experience in order to optimize your campaigns and make sure your every dollar is spent wisely.

4-    Adjustment: Some of the great advantages of online marketing are its accuracy and flexibility. Constant monitoring and real time adjustments give you the opportunity to amend your campaigns instantly, guaranteeing optimal performance and controlling your budget expenditure.

5-    Analytics: Measuring your campaign performance is an integral part of budget allocation, and is considered another one of online’s assets. In order to know how much to spend and where to spend, an in-depth analysis has to be made on every aspect of the campaign, from the pre-click to the post-click, from online advertising to social networks engagement.

Flash Sites SEO

In the last couple of years, small to medium local and regional businesses have increasingly opted for a Flash corporate site as it offers numerous communicational benefits such as high interactivity, enhanced user experience, which in turn leverages the brand positioning.

However, crawler based search engines still prefer html versus images, flash, and other scripts. For that matter, Search Engine Optimization experts agree that Flash’s major marketing disadvantage is in attaining greater visibility in Search Engine rankings in order to increase the number of visitors to the site.

Eastline Marketing’s SEO experts values the importance of search engine rankings, and, choosing the best methods on achieving positioning has recently been a priority to respond to abundant Flash Optimization requests.

After conducting several testing methods and finally gathering positive results, Eastline Marketing is now offering Search Engine Optimization for Flash sites so you can keep your website’s high user experience without sacrificing your ranking.

Using a combination of safe onsite and offsite optimization techniques, it’s now possible to optimize your flash website for better search engine visibility without having to edit any of your flash source files.

Optimize your flash site today! Contact us for more details.

Online VS Offline Advertising

According to Majestic Research, the average fee for an online marketer is 54¢ per click on Google Ads, as opposed to $1000 per column inch on the New York Times magazine, as stated in their rate card.

There is an endless ocean of opportunities beyond what your budget figures dictate. In case you’re spending on both, traditional and online marketing, how will you know which format brings you more? The trick lies in finding common ground to try on both marketing formats.

Print marketing prices are based on the circulation size of the publication and the amount of space you’re buying. While with the broadcast format (radio/TV) the prices are based on the audience estimates and the duration/time length of the advertisement at hand.

Google Ads are pay-per-click, which means you pay every time someone clicks on your Ad. Another method would be buying CPM or Cost per Milli-impression (1 thousand impressions), meaning you’ll be charged every time your ad is shown. CPM is more popular among online magazines since it relates to their traditional advertising format in print, where the price is decided by the size, space, and exposure.

Both models seem very different but their results could be compared through the response rate.

At the end, the main goal is the sales increase and the ad’s effect. No matter the source of the advertisement, the focal point will be the ‘customer acquisition cost.’

That is why, one can compare various advertising outlets through their CPA (Cost Per Acquisition) as a common factor.

An example would be when you spend 54¢ per visitor in Google and your site’s sales is average then you have a conversion of 2%, which, in value, equals 1 visitor out of 50. This means your CPA from Google would be equal to $27.00.

This happens as opposed to a quarter page advertisement in the New York Times where $10,000 will get you an exposure volume of 2 million people, though the response rate from this exposure will be 1 out of every 5000, meaning it will be around 400 calls. The sales team will convert 25% of this into sales, which is 100 sales from the $10,000 fee.

Therefore, your CPA is $100, meaning your New York Times ad is four times more expensive than your Google Ad.

Print is always more expensive, just as broadcast is more expensive than print, but this analysis between Google Ads and New York Times does not measure the power of brand awareness they could harness. There is a strong theory that suggests that brand awareness could not be developed or enhanced through online marketing, unlike TV advertising where everything is about brand awareness and empowerment.

The psychology of the customer plays a role in both formats as the traditional ads hit the viewers/customers while doing something out of focus (watching TV, listening to radio, driving on the street), while online ads hit the customer during searching for a certain product or service, therefore the ratio of spreading your ad is limited online, unlike the other media. This also applies to launching new products where people have to be aware of a product’s existence so to know what to look for a goal both formats have in common.

Comparing other parts of the process such as initial response rates would be a risky business as it makes the whole analysis vague, similar to comparing response rate to flyers on the streets to response rates for Google Ad clicks.

Another point of difference between the two formats is the nature of the interaction between the viewers/targets of the ad and the ad itself. Telephone marketing involves two people talking, with a caller, therefore able to curb rejection, work around it, and interact on the human level, through tone, voice, and language. On the other hand, online ads are uniform in figure and content that appears the same throughout the whole targeted region. That’s why a website’s content has to be catchy, persuasive and seductive, with the least interaction possible with the viewer.

The collection of comparison data requires a proper structure to monitor the source of every client that calls your phone, and the type of ad that led this person to become a potential client. Did he read your site link in a print ad? Or was that where he got the phone number from? To make the segregation process easier, create a URL address to be placed in the print ads specifically and a different phone number only listed on the site.

The bottom line of the whole process is not how you got the client to contact you as much as what the cost of acquiring this client was. By comparing all your advertising outlets, in most media formats, and using the Cost per Acquisition method, you will be able to put your finger on the outlet that yields the best results with the least expenses.

Eastline Marketing’s focus is online marketing in all aspects, from website integration and improvement to increased presence on search engines and directories. Though the traditional media may be a necessity for further exposure, no one can deny the ultimate influence and power that the internet wields in our daily life, and that is the art that we have mastered.

10 Steps to Leverage Your LinkedIn Account

One of online trends today involves communicating through Social Networks. LinkedIn, an international growing network specializes in connecting professionals and building trust between them. You are competent to promote your company through your profile and increase your connections.

Now, what are the steps to leverage your LinkedIn account?

1. Include your company name with your current position to show your commitment to the company.

2. Use the company logo in your profile to visually bond your profile to the site.

3. Use not only the website link, but add descriptive keywords for your connections to identify with the links content.

4. Write in your company summary, profile summary, and even in the job description, a short company description, including the keywords; this way, you will guarantee that LinkedIn members will find you.

5. Manage to connect with other professionals on LinkedIn in order to locate prospective customers and most importantly recommend your contacts to connect to LinkedIn.

6. Share posts and information about your company and definitely don’t sell your services, your purpose is to drive your connections to the site and add value.

7. Link power points or blogs to engage more with your connections.

8. Promote events that your company is hosting or attending.

9. Answer the questions asked by the connections, relying on your expertise and knowledge; who knows, your answer might be selected as the best answer and initiate discussions.

10. Follow your own company before following anybody else’s, and let your colleagues employ these same steps.

Eastline Marketing has been providing social marketing consultancy for various clients. Contact us to learn how we can help.

Facebook Groups Vs Facebook Pages

Are you confused whether to create a Facebook Page or Group? In brief, Facebook Pages are conceived for businesses and organizations looking to communicate with their audience, whereas Facebook Groups should be used to centralize people with common interest and provide them with a platform to interact together such as an alumni group.

Feature Comparison

Below is a straightforward feature comparison which will help you determine the most adequate Facebook presence.

Mass Messaging
Facebook Groups: Enable you to send messages directly to members’ Facebook Inboxes, as long as the number of group members does not exceed 5,000.
Facebook Pages: Feature not available (see Targeted Updates instead).

Indexed By Search Engines
Facebook Groups: Are indexed by Search Engines.
Facebook Pages: Are indexed by Search Engines but they offer wider search engine optimization options when used in combination with the Static FBML application.

Stream Publishing
Facebook Groups: Enable publishing stories to members’ news feeds.
Facebook Pages: Enable publishing stories to likers’ news feeds.

Targeted Stream Posts
Facebook Groups: Feature unavailable.
Facebook Pages: Enable to target stream posts based on location and language.

Targeted Updates
Facebook Groups: Feature unavailable (see Mass Mailing instead)
Facebook Pages: Enable the Facebook Page to send updates. Updates show in fans’ inboxes but under a separate tab “Updates”, which is more efficient.

Applications Support
Facebook Groups:  Feature unavailable.
Facebook Pages:

  • Provide Administrators with great flexibility to customize Page.
  • Enable Administrators to create custom Tabs within their Page.
  • Enable Pages to host customized applications (See Sweepz Facebook Application to learn how you can brand and customize your own Facebook sweepstakes or contest).

Membership Restrictions

Facebook Groups:
1)    Provide the possibility to limit access to the Groups, using three levels of restrictions:

  • Open groups enable anybody to join.
  • Closed groups appear in Facebook search results but group administrators must approve all members of the group.
  • Secret groups are not visible in Facebook search results and are accessed by invite only.

Facebook Pages
1)    Are always public and there is no option to make them private.
2)    Provide the possibility to limit access by country, gender and age.

Event Inbox Messaging
Facebook Groups:  Provide the possibility to send event invites to Group members, as long as the number of group members does not exceed 5,000.
Facebook Pages:  Event information can be sent via the Page updates which limits visibility and reach. Therefore Facebook ads are more effective to promote the event.

Engagement Metrics
Facebook Groups:  Feature unavailable.
Facebook Pages:  Provides information about the Facebook Page likers’ demographics, and engagement level. (Number of Views, likes, comments etc.).

Promotional Widgets
Facebook Groups:  Feature unavailable.
Facebook Pages: Administrators are provided with the Facebook Fanbox widget to help promote the Facebook Page.

Vanity URLs
Facebook Groups:  Feature unavailable.
Facebook Pages: Help promote the Facebook Page using Vanity URLs (i.e: which are the unique URLs that redirect users to the Facebook Page.