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SearchTHIS: Moving Search to the Next Level

Kevin M. Ryan
SearchTHIS: Moving Search to the Next Level Kevin M. Ryan

In the year 2010, we will have made contact with searchers in ways previously thought unimaginable. Ad formats such as local, paid, unpaid or otherwise will be distant memories. In and on demand will converge into one platform and advertisers will be saying, “Pay per click? Ugh, that’s so 2005.”

In case you missed last week’s phalanx of announcements relating to AOL’s enhanced search experience, among the big innovations included in the news were enhanced search snapshots for a richer search experience, an outsourced desktop search tool and new ways to help searchers refine results.

Largely unnoticed in these announcements was a breakthrough for a small California start-up with a sharp way of bringing performance-based advertising to businesses without a need or desire to have a Web site. Ingenio -- the brains behind many of the telephone-response-based ad platforms in existence today -- may just have the fuel search needs for continued large-scale growth in 2005 and beyond.

Finding a home for paid call services
AOL is losing subscribers every day, so it’s important for the dominant Internet service provider to find new sources of revenue. Pay per call ads by Ingenio will appear on the AOL Web site, AOL yellow pages and AOL search. Paid search provider Findwhat.com has had Ingenio’s pay per call platform on its site since the third quarter of 2004. Clearly, pay per call is on its way, but is it really necessary to reach into pay per call if you already have click-based advertising?

Digging deeper into shopping habits locally provides the answer to this frequently-asked and seldom-answered question. When advertisers ask about new ad formats’ effectiveness what they really want to know is how an ad format will enhance the interaction between advertiser, target audience and the point of sale.

Also last week, The Dieringer Research Group (The DRG) released its 2005 Web2Store (W2S) Benchmark Survey results that provided some key insights into the interaction between buyer and seller in transactions that are inherently local.

For one thing, the report indicated that W2S shoppers visit sites they trust for information. Among those sites are -- you guessed it, search engines. Also, for every dollar spent online shoppers spent $1.60 offline. Shoppers with incomes of $75,000 or greater spent $1.98 offline for every dollar spent online.

While it’s important to remember the DRG study focused its effort on retail, the data clearly indicates that a local offline purchasing experience is worth nearly twice the online experience for more affluent audiences, and the influx of pay per call will facilitate a human connection between searcher and purchase point for all local audiences.

Speaking of connectivity

So let’s say you are plumber. You have a computer with Internet access but may never have a Web site. The Internet is a distant thought for advertising behind refrigerator magnets, word of mouth and the ubiquitous yellow pages. Assuming your computer hasn’t been infected by spyware and you haven’t given up on the Internet altogether, you need a new way to reach out to prospective consumers without clicking into your non-existent Web site. 

“Because many local businesses need to close over the phone, pay per call will be inherently appealing to a wide segment of the small business marketplace,” says The Kelsey Group’s Greg Sterling. “The challenge, of course, is gaining adoption. There's a great deal of inertia in the SME marketplace. But the AOL deal will definitely help build awareness and generate momentum.”

One of the key elements of the offline connection to search or other directive advertising opportunities in the local space is the penetration rate of broadband -- something research firms like The Kelsey Group and The DRG are watching very closely.

The DRG survey results indicated that 50 percent of U.S. online households went to broadband and projects that nearly 80 percent will go high speed in 2005. A connection available without the baggage of having to dial in makes online directories and search sites a much more efficient access point for locally orientated commerce. I find it interesting that users dropping off the dial-up telephone map might just be the tipping point for pay per call, since phone lines will no longer be tied up.

Pay per call tracking has actually been around for quite some time. Advertisers have used unique tracking telephone numbers to help valuate ad spends long before the Internet arrived on the scene. Ingenio’s format however, is a great deal more than simply tracking the number of calls to come in from an advertisement.

Tomorrow: Getting into the nitty gritty of how Ingenio works.

iMedia Search Editor Kevin Ryan’s current and former client roster reads like a “who’s who” in big brands; Rolex Watch, USA, State Farm Insurance, Farmers Insurance, Minolta Corporation, Samsung Electronics America, Toyota Motor Sales, USA, Panasonic Services, and the Hilton Hotels brands, to name a few. Ryan believes in sound guidance, creative thought, accountable actions and collaborative execution as applied to search, or any form of marketing. His principled approach and staunch commitment to the industry have made him one of the most sought after personalities in online marketing. Ryan volunteers his time with the Interactive Advertising Bureau, Search Engine Marketing Professional Organization, and several regional non-profit organizations.

Ryan serves as Executive Vice President at the search engine marketing specialist agency, Did-it.Com.

Previous: Introduction

Conversational marketing isn’t about consumer-generated ads, as good as many of them are. Nor is it about blogging, which is basically a monologue with a few people commenting.

Conversational marketing is engaging people in ongoing dialogue.

Why is this so important? Customers today expect to have a say about their products and services: how they should fit into their lives, how they’re designed and packaged, where they can buy them, and yes, even how they should be advertised.

They’re often passionate about being able to help companies make decisions, not just ads.

Next: Listening is underrated

Previous: "Conversational marketing" means two-way

When you shut up and listen, you find amazing customer insights, which is how Dove created the most admired marketing campaign of this young century.

Dove’s "Campaign for Real Beauty," celebrating women’s curves, sags, wrinkles and inner beauty, started by really listening to how women feel about their bodies and how they define beauty. In fact, many recent marketing innovations -- from companies like Kraft, GlaxoSmithKline, and Starwood Hotels -- have all started by listening to consumers in new ways. 

In addition, research has shown that listening can increase customer loyalty, trust, and even willingness to recommend a company to friends. Our research has found that when participants felt heard within the community, 82 percent of those members said that they were more likely to recommend the company's products and services than before they joined. Likewise, 52 percent of the members said that they were more inclined to make a purchase.

With markets and consumer trends changing so fast, marketers need to be hardwired into the voices of their customers all the time so that they can turn on a dime.

Next: Think small when it comes to social networks and online communities

Previous: Listening is underrated

One of the most effective ways to make it easy for customers to have a say -- and create a true conversational marketing platform -- is by using online communities.

But think small when creating a customer community. 

Although some social networks thrive on large numbers, our research has found that a 400-person community can be far more vibrant and engaging than many large online communities.

The more intimate and exclusive the community, the greater the participation, and this is largely because people feel special, that their voices are heard, and that they are valued company insiders.

You can’t create a website for 100,000 anonymous people, throw up a message board, add a few surveys and call it “conversation.”

Next: Use the "lurk factor" to measure engagement

Previous: Think small when it comes to social networks and online communities

The way to measure conversational marketing isn’t to look at how many people logged on to the blog or website. Rather, it’s analyzing how actively people participate.

Just one percent of the people who log on to the big social networks go on to create original content, while only another 10 percent comment on or respond to that content. The other 89 percent lurk.

The more engaged people are, however, the more they will contribute original content. 

In a recent study of 38,515 members of 66 by-invitation, branded communities we found participation rates of up to 86 percent, with just 14 percent lurking.

Next: It's about the social glue, and not necessarily your products

Previous: Use the "lurk factor" to measure engagement

People want to talk about common interests and passions -- their social glue -- and not solely your products.

So when engaging with them in a community or through other conversational marketing techniques, focus the conversation around what they care most about.

Dove didn’t just research what women liked in skin products. They opened up the conversation to what women really cared about: self-esteem, their bodies, frustrations with the beauty industry. 

Through listening to passionate conversations around issues related to your products, you will find invaluable new ideas on how to more quickly develop innovative products, campaigns, and ways to build loyal customers and advocates.

Return to Introduction

Diane Hessan is CEO of Communispace, specializes in creating online customer communities. Read full bio.

Inspire people
Fan count: 71 million+ 

How many inspirational quotes have you seen on Facebook? A lot, right? That's because certain people use Facebook as a place to inspire themselves and others. Brands can too. But it doesn't have to be just through a bad-ass quotation from Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson.

Consider Coca-Cola. OK, granted -- the company, like others in this article, is a behemoth with enough clout and money to actually change the world. Your brand might not have that much weight to throw around. But there's still value in promoting goodness and equality. Whether it's showcasing your brand's support for a cause or its sponsorship of the local tee-ball team, you can tell a story -- one that your fans will feel good about "liking."

Easy-to-steal ideas from Facebook's 10 biggest brands

Call for the captions
Red Bull 
Fan count: 39 million+  

Red Bull is known in the social sphere for its breathtaking action photography. And I get it: You don't have that in the budget. It's cool. But you can easily steal one of Red Bull's most basic Facebook tricks: Caption contests!

I know. The oldest one in the book, right? But that's because it's one of the most powerful -- and easiest and cheapest to employ -- tricks of the trade.

Easy-to-steal ideas from Facebook's 10 biggest brands

Transport people
Fan count: 37 million+  

Take people inside an event. It doesn't even have to be your event. But your brand or employees show up somewhere, right? A store opening. A concert. A launch party. A sponsorship at the local Elks Lodge. Document it, create an album, and share. People love being transported away from their desks.

Easy-to-steal ideas from Facebook's 10 biggest brands

Product photos reimagined
Fan count: 35 million+  

Rethink your product shots. Most of the biggies on Facebook do this and do it well. Starbucks is the master, but it's not a hard tactic to employ, provided you have a quasi-decent camera and a rudimentary photo-editing program.

Easy-to-steal ideas from Facebook's 10 biggest brands


Spread the news
Fan count: 34 million+  

If you have news, post it! You might not be PlayStation and have an actual press conference to announce. But newsy behind-the-scene tidbits -- new hires, new products, events your brand is at -- these are all Facebook worthy, and often a nice break from other types of posts.

Easy-to-steal ideas from Facebook's 10 biggest brands

Product hacks
34 million+  

Hack your own product if you can. Or better yet, post other people's hacks. Oreo knows what I'm talking about.

Easy-to-steal ideas from Facebook's 10 biggest brands

Make them drool
32 million+  

Food brands are all over this one. But you don't necessarily have to be a food brand to post quick recipe ideas to Facebook. People literally eat them up.

Easy-to-steal ideas from Facebook's 10 biggest brands

Tap into celebrity power
Fan count: 30 million+

Post celebrity photos. Arguably, iTunes is able to do this in a way that's much more directly tied to the promotion of its brand. But make no mistake: Posting a coupon to your Facebook page -- no matter your brand -- in honor of The King's birthday, with a choice image of the man himself, will get some attention.

Easy-to-steal ideas from Facebook's 10 biggest brands

Yep -- puppies
Fan count: 29 million+  

Just put a puppy next to your product. You don't need a good reason.

Easy-to-steal ideas from Facebook's 10 biggest brands

Drive them to your content
Fan count: 28 million+

This one might seem painfully obvious, but surprisingly few brands do it. Many tend to think of their Facebook posts as content that exists on Facebook alone. (Or, at best, they repurpose it to Twitter or Instagram.) But you have content elsewhere, right? Great blog content is a perfect fit, but even if you don't have that, look for other opportunities. An interview with your CEO in the local paper? Definitely. Use Facebook as a gateway to other online properties that can drive them deeper into your brand.

Easy-to-steal ideas from Facebook's 10 biggest brands

Drew Hubbard is a social media strategist and owner of LA Foodie.

On Twitter? Follow Hubbard at @LAFoodie. Follow iMedia Connection at @iMediaTweet.

"Light bulb icon" and "Thief" images via Shutterstock.


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