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Content marketing is here to stay!

As a longtime Seinfeld fan, I was immediately interested when I heard that Jerry Seinfeld was going to be hosting a new show called Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee, featuring the man himself, Jerry Seinfeld, driving classic automobiles and having coffee with other famous comedians.

As a marketer with interest in social media marketing, I was doubly intrigued to find that the series is sponsored by Acura as part of their content marketing initiatives. True to the genre, although Seinfeld has yet to drive an Acura in the series, the show frequently features slow camera pans across Acura vehicles as he drives his guests across town to a coffeehouse. Seinfeld is rather open about the Acura sponsorship as well, even joking at points about needing to "wait for the product placement."

The automotive industry has long been one of the major industries driving marketing practices forward, and this foray into long-form content marketing by Acura is no exception. Recognizing that the new generation spends more time with their phones than their cars, Acura is trying to reach them where they are with content that they want to watch.

What kind of long-form content marketing might make sense in your company?

Keep it ethical!: Socially responsible digital marketing

Roman copy in marble of a Greek bronze bust of Aristotle by Lysippus, c. 330 BC.

In Aristotle's Treatise on Rhetoric, he offers the following definition of rhetoric: "The faculty of observing, in any given situation, all available means of persuasion." He continues by defining three key "means" of persuasion: ethos, logos, and pathos.

Logos-based appeals are persuasive messages that find their roots in formalized rules of logic: a thesis supported by arguments supported by evidence. Pathos-based appeals use emotion to move an audience to act or think in a certain way. Ethos-based appeals rely on the character or credibility of the message source to move an audience.

According to Aristotle, an action (or message) is ethical if it does not reduce the speaker's ability to make future ethos-based appeals. In short, if you are doing something that hurts your credibility, Aristotle finds that action to be unethical. In the digital marketing world, the explosion of new tactics for getting your content in front of viewers has resulted in many companies skirting, if not entirely crossing, the ethical line in their marketing activities. Here are three key things some digital marketers do that are unethical:


  1. Unethical Search Engine Optimization (SEO) Techniques. Having a website that is on the first page of a search engine's results for certain terms is of significant value. As such, many digital marketing departments have engaged in unethical tactics for increasing the page rank of their digital properties. Some strategies include using hidden content in pages filled with keywords that search engines see but are invisible when viewing the page, link farming to obtain inbound links to your content that are not organically derived, and article spinning, where an article is automatically re-written dozens or hundreds of times using synonyms for the original words and then posted around the Internet on other websites to provide backlinks to the author's site. All of these practices are legal, but are ethically questionable. Before you employ "black hat" SEO tactics like these, consider the following question: If your audience knew you used these techniques to get them to visit your site, would you lose credibility with them?
  2. Spam Email Marketing. Not only is spam illegal in many countries, it's also unethical. Sending unsolicited email to millions of addresses may be profitable, but for the vast majority of recipients, it will reduce your company's ability to make future appeals based on your credibility.
  3. Paid Likes and Follows. To be sure, your company's social media credibility is enhanced when visitors to your pages see that you are "liked" or "followed" by hundreds or thousands of others. However, companies should be wary when they use marketing services that promise to have your pages liked or followed by hundreds or thousands of users. In almost every case, the accounts that will be following you are nothing more than computer-controlled bots that like and follow all of the accounts who pay for their services. In terms of organic reach, your paid likes and follows will not generate any social contact with your customers or potential customers. Further, consider Aristotle's definition of ethics - would you lose credibility with potential customers if they knew that your thousands of followers were all paid bots? Probably.


Ultimately, digital marketers still engage in these activities because they are (at least marginally) effective. However, the damage the use of these tactics can have on your companies reputation and credibility is considerable. Ultimately, socially responsible companies use ethical digital marketing strategies to connect with customers and maintain relationships while maintaining their own credibility with future potential consumers.

Microsites - the next wave of social media marketing?

Increasingly, brands are beginning move content away from social media platforms like Facebook and onto alternate social channels, like custom microsites.

Jun Group, an online ad placement agency, reports that online ads ending in a Facebook brand page decreased from 31 percent to 10 percent between 2012 and 2013, with the majority of those clicks instead going to brand-owned sites.

Brand managers and marketers cite the "rented" nature of Facebook: ultimately Facebook controls the user experience on the site, and brands can only work within the existing framework provided. By moving content to microsites, brands are moving from "rented" space to "owned" space, with all of the advantages that total control provides, including improved analytics and ownership of all user data on the sites. 

One key example cited in the article is the Madden NFL 15 microsite, The Giferator, which allows users to create imminently shareable animated GIF images. According to Anthony Stevenson, EA Sports' VP of Global Marketing and Brand, visitors to The Giferator stayed on the site for an average of six minutes, suggesting a high level of engagement with the brand.

What might a microsite strategy look like for your organization?

An audience of ONE? Social media ad targeting can be VERY precise...

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Yesterday, AdWeek reported the efforts of Brian Swichkow, a social media marketer, who used Facebook's increasingly granular Custom Audiences tool to target his roommate to receive specific advertisements as a prank.

His roommate, a sword swallower, struggles to swallow his daily multivitamins, so Swichkow developed an advertisement for individuals with this particular problem and then used Facebook's targeting engine to deliver the advertisement to his roommate.

Not surprisingly, the roommate was a bit shocked at the incredibly targeted nature of the advertisement.

This specific instance just goes to show how social media allows marketers increasingly precise targeting of their prime prospects, down to an audience of one. Officially, Facebook advertises the following ad targeting options: location, gender, age, likes and interests, relationship status, workplace, and education. However, by using the Custom Audiences feature, which allows a marketer to upload a list of 20 or more individuals who should receive the advertisement, simple manipulations of the list characteristics can allow the targeting of a single individual.

For example, uploading a list of 20 prospects, 19 female and one male, and then targeting a campaign to males only would effectively produce an audience of one for the campaign. What remains to be seen is how marketers will use these new powers. How long will it take for savvy job seekers to get their resume right in front of the hiring manager at a desired company? And would this type of strategy be perceived as proactive or creepy?

Digital marketing strategy tip: Link your metrics to your objectives

Pauline Draper-Watts has an excellent article at the Institute for Public Relations about the continuing dearth of measurement in the digital marketing arena. Although companies are increasingly dedicating larger and larger portions of their overall marketing and advertising spend on digital channels, firms are finding that an inability to effectively measure digital efforts provides a roadblock to effective digital marketing.

Draper-Watts notes that although "analytics tools abound for various social channels and owned properties with supporting metrics for those channels," since digital marketing is still relatively new, many firms are unsure about which key performance indicators are most indicative of digital marketing success. She argues that whatever metrics are used, it's important for those metrics to be clearly tied to the marketing objectives.

Good advice!