How would you like to send people money through an email? Google is betting that people will like it. Amid the flurry of updates and announcements in I/O 2013, the company took time to mention a new feature that integrates Google Wallet with Gmail.
To make use of the new function, people must use Wallet and have a Gmail account. If the Wallet account has a linked bank account or a balance of its own, users can send cash through Gmail free of charge. A flat fee of 2.9 percent is necessary for sending money using a credit or debit card, but receiving the money is completely free of charge. Some limits apply. According to the Google Wallet rules, people cannot send more than $10,000 to someone else within a five-day period. This makes the upgrade perfect for casual, peer-to-peer money trades in just moments.
While friends can effortlessly pay each other back instead of waiting until they have some cash, the Gmail integration also holds future potential for small businesses and online stores. Google’s announced many commerce-changing technology updates at I/O 2013 in which integration is the name of the game. Another new Google Wallet feature allows businesses to sell through new app content that provides customers with an Instant Buy function to increase conversion.
Google also offered conferences on cutting-edge technology like indoor mapping, which is a future Google Maps projects that will do for buildings what Maps did for streets, giving marketers a whole new field of indoor location-based content to offer as customers navigate the aisles.
Beyond the mobile world, Google is also offering new tools for web publishers. I/O 2013 saw updates and conferences for Google Plus, showing companies how to create buttons to help viewers share business posts and utilize badges to help customers link up with businesses or brands on Google’s social network. On a developer level, Google also tackles the latest Web Components, including custom elements, auto hashtagging, and Shadow DOM, focusing on making websites cleaner and more focused on the real content instead of just the menus or links.
With multiple events on new tools for making apps, websites, cloud functions, Android ads, and even YouTube videos, I/O fans have no excuse for not coming up with new marketing ideas. The challenge is in the sheer amount of information available. When companies can branch out in so many directions, the possibilities can overwhelm. Strategy meetings to pick a few primary projects are highly recommended after the I/O flood.
The first official Internet Cat Video Festival was held last year in Minneapolis, and not only confirmed the widespread love for cats but created a recurring event with plans to take its best content on the road in 2013. This year, the primary festival was held in Oakland, Calif., on May 11. With satellite episodes popping up from around the globe, cats have taken their place as some of the most attractive content in the world, both on- and offline.
Curators and creators knew they had a sensation on their hands when 10,000 people, instead of the expected few dozen, participated in the first festival. The event also proved an excellent testing ground for such above-average fare. The existential, tongue-in-cheek parodies of high film in Will Braden’s famous “Henri Le Chat Noir” netted Braden a Golden Kitty, (the festival’s equivalent of an Oscar), which made his videos a worldwide sensation. As a result, Braden landed a book deal and endorsement from Friskies cat food. Some creators are even working with talent agents to develop profitable material with their own pets, a trend that was addressed in April’s Tribeca Film Festival by a pointed documentary.
On Twitter, the #catvidfest hashtag is used as a marketing technique by events like SXSW as well as community branding committees. The Facebook page for the official #catvidfest tag is also equipped with plenty of news about the latest festivals, including international versions to be held later this year in London and Vienna in addition to the new Oakland show.
YouTube, of course, is host to some of the most pervasive Internet Cat Video Festival content from both last year’s kickoff festival and this year’s event. The serious parodies like Braden’s work are rare, but efforts show many people rising to the occasion. Some of the most popular vids showcase a higher production value that the average amateur cat video on the Internet (most even sport soundtracks).
Cats have been used as part of branding before: Home Depot Atlanta used cat memes last year to help sell its brand, while Kia tapped the cat-friendly Internet to create contents for its new vehicle models. Marketers can use cat content to gain some extra viral attention, as long as they are willing to go up against millions of amateur competitors with entertaining moments that cannot be feigned.
Cats and brands are not always good bedfellows, since the cats may take up most of the attention and can detract from the brands themselves: The Home Depot campaign, for example, was designed entirely for entertainment and general brand-building and had, to its detriment, no space for promoting specific products.
Of course, savvy marketers can take the general lessons to heart instead of the specific subject matter: Cats are a cuddly, cute, accepted part of the human experience, and even more endearing when they mimic human roles or fulfill absurdist/comedy tropes. Subjects that share the same vein of appeal can also help attract underground audiences and spread marketing messages — maybe even on a global level.
Thanks to the increasingly bright light on Author Rank and Authorship, Google+ was hailed by many experts as one of the biggest content marketing trends to watch in 2013. The results of a new survey suggest that local marketers were paying attention.
According to a report published by local SEO agency Bright Local, SEO agencies cited optimization for Google’s social network as their most demanded service behind on-site optimization, which came in at number one. This is very surprising, considering that it beat out services that represent arguably more challenging aspects of SEO, such as link building, social media marketing and mobile site development.
When factored into other findings, this particular research effort appears to suggest that local marketers should be investing their budgets in premium SEO services in G+. In a Search Engine Watch article, Guillaume Bouchard of NVI spoke of how this fast-growing social network can help businesses gain more visibility than competitors on the local search scene, drive more traffic to web destinations and increase conversions.
Google has been pushing local results for years, but really tightened its focus when it got into the social media business. The search giant introduced G+ Local Pages in May 2012, which differ from standard Pages by providing features that make it possible for a customer to connect with a company’s physical location easily. Last month, it updated the Google Places dashboard in G+ Local to better reflect the look and feel of the social network and improve the speed of updating and integration with existing Google products.
The Bright Local survey results have emerged on the heels of new research tracking the meteoric rise of G+ up the social media ladder. According to the recently published findings of GlobalWebIndex, the platform is now the second-largest social network.
With such increased interest in Google+ optimization, local marketers who begin to take the service seriously will undoubtedly benefit most. Integrating Google+ into marketing efforts and campaigns, as opposed to merely creating a profile or page that sits inactive, will likely become standard procedure for successful content marketers.
Teacher Appreciation Week has arrived and, this year, online content is a bigger part of the celebration than ever before. Multiple channels are providing videos, e-cards and social media posts thanking teachers and raising support for schools. The new digital engagement comes at a good time, too, since online content has risen as one of the most promising solutions for schools and colleges in the digital age, allowing teachers to post content and interact with long-distance students. As this week has shown, it also makes it a lot easier for teachers to get some media love, particularly from national organizations. Videos and interactive promotions proved especially popular.
The predominant hashtag #thankateacher has been both a tag and a call to action that has been supported by myriad organizations, particularly the White House, which encouraged followers to retweet the hashtag and a cute photo to “say thanks to the teachers that have made a difference in your life.” The National Education Association quickly hopped on and took the hashtag a little further, creating a Storify line showing how people across the nation were sharing their appreciation. Storify, which allows organizations to meld social posts together to form a cohesive article or story, is an especially effective medium for this kind of display.
Of course, a number of for-profits and major brands also jumped on board. Scholastic used the opportunity to advocate writers who used to be teachers. ExxonMobil gave a shout-out to all the inspiring teachers in the world and even included some excellent video content with employees talking about how teachers made a difference in their lives. WebMD, MythBusters, and YouTube also partook of the hashtag and openly thanked teachers with their own custom videos.
Over at Fundly, Teach for America has gone a step further and created a unique video designed to gather in supporters and donation for teachers, particularly teachers in tough neighborhoods who are working to transform the lives of their students. While the fundraiser is continuing throughout May, it is trying to drum up the most support during Teacher Appreciation Week. WebTeach.com, meanwhile, has gone beyond video content and created a promotion to draw in new registrants, offering them e-gifts for Starbucks and a drawing for an iPad. For an especially heartwarming example of content, visit a school blog and chances are good you will run across this endearing teacher infographic, created by USC for mass sharing over the week and featuring a collection of stats about American teachers (currently at 7.2 million).
Content marketers in the auto industry may be wise to seek and promote more authentic, positive user reviews. According to a report from eMarketer, user-generated content in the form of car reviews is more influential on car-purchasing behavior than professionally written reviews.
Before purchasing a vehicle, consumers read user reviews on manufacturer websites more often than professional reviews. Twenty-six percent of consumers who considered just one brand read user-generated reviews; 24 percent read professional reviews. Of those who considered multiple brands before buying, 51 percent read user reviews, while 49 percent read professional reviews.
Reading a user review gives a strong indication that a potential purchaser intends to buy a vehicle. When visitors to the car review and pricing site Edmunds.com visited the user review section, they were 590 percent more likely to purchase a vehicle than the average visitor. Visitors to the professional review section were only 330 percent more likely to buy.
In mature markets such as the United States, 61 percent of buyers of new vehicles did research via social media, as well. The most-used channels were blogs or discussion forums (31 percent), manufacturer and dealer social media sites (15 percent and 13 percent) and “informational/encyclopedia sites with user-generated content” (15 percent). In developing markets, the use of social media was significantly higher. According to the report, “a popular product or campaign can enjoy millions of endorsements on social media platforms with little investment on their end.”
More frequent recourse to user reviews does not automatically signify greater trust than in professional reviews. But it does indicate they are an important part of the buying process. According to Myles Anderson, a Search Engine Land study found that 72 percent of consumers trust online reviews of local business as much as they trust personal recommendations. These numbers don’t directly indicate trust in user car reviews, but they suggest that trust is a key factor in the importance of user reviews.
Since user-generated reviews are such a sales-inducing form of content, some marketers in other industries have found ways to both increase the number of user-generated reviews of their products, and to increase the viewing of them. Adam T. Sutton at MarketingSherpa provides a case study of the Coffee for Less coffee e-commerce site as an example.
Coffee for Less developed a strategy for getting more of the right kind of reviews. One tactic was educating customers on how to write a review. Another was to encourage reviews with sweepstakes and periodic emails. The company also auto-tweets any positive reviews on its Twitter feed for extra exposure. These efforts resulted in a 125 percent greater conversion rate in Q4 2011 for users who interacted with the user reviews.
Only 22 percent of vehicle buyers post a review afterward, compared to 45 percent who review a food product (such as coffee) after using it. While coffee beans aren’t cars, auto brands may benefit from similarly innovative user-review-generating strategies.