Category Archives: Internet Marketing

The Future of Facebook . . . watch out Google

Last week I attended Media Post’s Search Insider Summit in Captiva Island, FL. Given the excellent location, I brought the family and made it a “workation.”  Having my kids (5 years old and 2 years old) there definitely gave me a different perspective on the current, and future, state of the Internet. Watching Grant navigate my iPhone with ease at just 5 years old, made me wonder how he’ll search for information in 2, 3 or even 5 years. My musing only increased as nearly every presentation discussed how consumers will access search in the future, or put another way, contextual search. But there was another topic that repeatedly came up . . . Facebook. But this was no coincidence, because I think Facebook is going to have a huge impact on how we find information in the near future. I’m talking about a Google-sized impact. Let me explain . . .

Several months ago Facebook released their new Open Graph API to developers. In “non-Internet-geek-language” it gives Facebook the ability to integrate with millions of different websites. This is a “two-way” relationship, so Facebook can share data/content with the website and the website can share data and content back to Facebook. At its most basic level, these websites will be able to host Facebook “Like” buttons on their site and that information will then be pushed back to Facebook. I’ll give you a delicious Fort Worth example.

I love Grady’s restaurant in Fort Worth. I’d call the food “Cowboy Chic” (make sure to try the Texas Goat Cheese and Sun-Dried Tomato Tamales). The owner, Grady Spears, is a great guy, and it’s close to our house. Based on my positive experiences I decided to give Grady’s props on Yelp, which is one of the early-adopters of the new Facebook API. 

 

So I clicked on the “Like” button on Grady’s Yelp page (also notice that FB tells me how many of my friends are on Yelp at the bottom of the page).  

That click generated the following message on my profile and News Feed.

This may not seem like much. What is one line of small, Arial font going to do for Grady’s or my friends? A whole heck of a lot. Think about the massive amount of data Facebook is now going to collect. Plus, this data is actual preferences/suggestions generated by humans – and not just any humans, but humans in your social circle. This data is infinitely more powerful than any computer algorithm based on back-links and web-spiders (I’m talking to you Google). So does this reduce the  need to search for information on a traditional search engine like Google? Yes, and it is already happening today.

Just this morning a buddy from Louisiana posted on his wall that he was looking for a good, affordable, lawn service in town for a small-sized yard. Within the hour he had several recommendations from his friends (including URLs and phone numbers of the recommended providers). Compare that to Google, where he would need to sift through numerous results – with little context and zero trust.  Now imagine a future where Facebook develops their own search tool that allows a more automated way for this same person to locate this information, with the benefit of recommendations from friends, but without having to explicitly ask for it. That’s super powerful and (pardon the cliché’) a game-changer.

As an advertiser, I’m also excited about the potential targeting abilities that this data will provide.  Plus, since the Open Graph data is opt-in (truly every click is the consumer making the decision to share the data) Facebook should avoid the backlash that came with the failed launch of the Beacon platform.

So now that Facebook has this new data “coming in”, there is less reason for any Facebook user to “go out” or leave the comfort of Facebook. So why would sites like Yelp integrate with Facebook and potential reduce their site traffic? Yelp is banking on the fact that the relationship will result in return traffic to Yelp. I think this will be true in the short-term, but as Facebook get’s smarter with the data, I think there becomes less need to ever leave Facebook.

So let’s come back to my 5 year old. How will he find information in a few years? My guess is he’ll grab his iPad and open Facebook. It’s that simple.

Why won’t Google let us make search ads more interesting?

Google AdWords

So the ThinkCash team tested a pretty unique ad on Google this week for our PayDay One site on the terms “payday loans” and “cash advance“. The results were bitter sweet. Paid search ads are a huge channel for any online advertiser. The problem is that you can’t get very “creative” when you’re ad is limited to a handful of characters of Tahoma-font-text.

Google Ad

We decided to test some ad creative using “ASCII Art” (see above) that we thought was pretty unique. The ad is in no way misleading, but rather a more interesting way to try and attract the attention of a consumer that has already indicated that they have an emergency cash need based on their search query.

So I said the results were bitter sweet. The sweet portion is that we saw a 50% higher CTR on this ad versus our control. The bitter part – Google yanked our ad and said that we weren’t complying with AdWords guidelines (they specifically cited the excessive use of punctuation and capitalization).

ad rejection

I know Google has a tough job and managing click fraud and deceptive search marketing practices is a huge challenge for them. However, I think the time has come for the simple-text search ad to evolve . . . I’m OK with baby steps forward, but let’s just keep moving forward.

How to launch a business

As many of you know, I have “entrepreneurial” blood. My Dad is a serial-entrepreneur that has started several successful companies, my sister and brother-in-law have started/owned a couple successful companies (including their current venture – Circle M Trailers), many of my uncles, cousins, etc. I have also leaned towards entrepreneurship in my career with iChoose (traditional early dot-com start-up), Blockbuster Online (was literally outside hire #1 for the online business and helped build, launch and grow Blockbuster Online), and of course my current role at ThinkCash.

I’ve been lucky enough to have many friends and business associates solicit my help over the years to help them evaluate new business opportunities or refine business plans.  I recently came across a story in the Financial Times about entrepreneur Luic Le Meur, which had one of the best top-10 list I’ve ever seen for launching a new business, so I though I would share it here:

  1. Don’t wait for a revolutionary idea. It will never happen. Just focus on a simple, exciting, empty space and execute as fast as possible
  2. Share your idea. The more you share, the more you get advice and the more you learn. Meet and talk to your competitors.
  3. Build a community. Use blogging and social software to make sure people hear about you.
  4. Listen to your community. Answer questions and build your product with their feedback.
  5. Gather a great team. Select those with very different skills from you. Look for people who are better than you.
  6. Be the first to recognise a problem. Everyone makes mistakes. Address the issue in public, learn about and correct it.
  7. Don’t spend time on market research. Launch test versions as early as possible. Keep improving the product in the open.
  8. Don’t obsess over spreadsheet business plans. They are not going to turn out as you predict, in any case.
  9. Don’t plan a big marketing effort. It’s much more important and powerful that your community loves the product.
  10. Don’t focus on getting rich. Focus on your users. Money is a consequence of success, not a goal.

For those closet-entrepreneurs out there thinking of some new venture, definitely take the 10 points above to-heart. There is no master plan for success, but the points above are a good start.

Good Read

 

So last week I wrote about why I work at ThinkCash and the positive impact we have on people’s lives. To follow-up on that thought, Mitch Duprey of the Motley Fool has a great article today that really explains why short-term loan or installment loan products are important for consumers.  One line in particularly sums-it-up best,

The fact is, while we wish individuals would always be Foolish (smart) with their finances, life intrudes, and the ability to make it to the next payday requires a short bridge loan. Traditional financial institutions have abandoned customers with this need

New York, New York

Time Square Cab

So Michael (one of my co-workers at ThinkCash)  and I just got back from NY where we attended AdTech. AdTech is the biggest conference in the online advertising business and has literally grown to ridiculous proportions over the years. One of the traditions of AdTech are companies (mostly run by young CEOs/Founders and flush with cash) throwing very extravagant parties. This isn’t a bad thing. I enjoy attending the parties and seeing old friends; however, it seems like every year they become more and more decadent/strange. This years winner for strangest party took place at Pacha (a very hip NY club). The party was hosted by no-less than 10 different companies and featured performances by Rob Base (of “It Takes Two” fame) and Turbo from the movie Breakin (an 80’s classic). But this wasn’t the strange part. The strange part were the people walking around the party in mascot outfits. There was a Chuck E. Cheese, a Paddington Bear, etc. It was a little surreal to see Paddington Bear dancing to Rob Bass.


The big news at the show was Facebook announcing it will offer new advertising options. The “social ads” will take several forms on the site, propelled by an ad system that, according to the company, “enables people to provide trusted referrals to their friends and helps businesses to spread information.” For example, Movie Clique is a new Blockbuster application built on the Facebook Platform that enables Facebook users to search thousands of movie titles and create lists of movies they want to see, movies they’ve already seen and all-time favorites — along with ratings and reviews — to share with their friends. Users who subscribe to Blockbuster’s online rental service can also rent movies directly from Blockbuster without leaving the Facebook website. I think this platform will work well for a handful of advertisers, but it just isn’t relevant for 90% of the products and services out there.

It was a productive conference because Michael and I got to visit with about 10 of our biggest partners, which is much easier and cheaper than flying all over the country to visit the same partners. However, my favorite part of the trip was on Monday night when I took Michael to my favorite pizza place in the world – Lombardi’s in Little Italy

Lombardi’s was the first pizzeria to open in the US (in 1905).

The pizza is Neapolitan-style, cooked in the original oven (over 100 years old), and is amazing. It used to only seat 25-30 (so there were often long waits) but they recently expanded so we had no problem getting a table. I requested that we be seated on the “old side” so Michael could get the full experience. So the waitress sat us at a table next to none other than John Mayer. It’s always fun to go to NY or LA and have a “star-sighting”.

Interesting use of social networking . . . but this isn’t an endorsement yet.

Barack Obama on LinkedIn

So I got an update on my LinkedIn account and there was a very interesting question posted (LinkedIn allows you to post questions to people in your network).  Presidential candidate Barack Obama posed the question, “How can the next president help better help small business and entrepreneurs thrive?” I thought this was a great way to tap into social networking in order to get people (voters) thinking about the issues and to generate some interest in his campaign. It got me to click on Barack’s profile, where there is info on his campaign, etc. (see screen shot above). Nice to see a candidate intelligently-leveraging a technology/service I use everyday.

For all of your horse trailer and accessory needs . . . Circle M

Circle M Trailers Website

I posted previously about my sister’s family moving to Texas. The reason they move is that they bought a livestock and horse trailer business in Mabank, TX called Circle M Trailers. One of the first projects had on their “to-do” list was a new website, which they launched today. The site looks great and was actually designed by Tye Spain (one of the web designers that worked for me at JCPenney.com). The site has a clean, modern look without forgetting that purpose of the site is to sell trailers. Now I just need to help them set-up a Google AdWords campaign to make sure their new site gets the traffic it deserves.