Posts Tagged: social media

Marketing has never been harder than it is today

There are more start-ups being launched than ever before, while at the same time there are more ways to reach an audience. As a result, consumers and companies alike are being bombarded with marketing messages…whether it’s in a social media newsfeed, in an email inbox, or through content marketing. Cutting through that noise has become really difficult.

At the same time, the marketing strategies have become more complicated to excel at, particularly for small start-ups with minimal resources. There’s always been an inherent tension in marketing: on one side, the creative, free-thinking, “sudden genius” that builds a brand over time, balanced by the data-driven approach that relies on metrics like conversion rates and methodical a/b testing. Like the Yin and Yang, one cannot exist without the other. But both camps have dramatically changed over the years – which makes today’s marketing so complicated.

First, on the creative side…

Consumers today expect to have a different relationship with brands and businesses than in decades before. Social media essentially gives consumers a megaphone and they expect a two-way dialogue. Perhaps more importantly, consumers are looking to connect with the human side of a business, and only want authentic stories and messages from their brands. All of this requires a new tool set: marketers need to dig deep to become authentic storytellers.

On the data-driven side…

Just a few years ago, metrics folks mainly focused on search engine marketing (including both paid and organic) – with the single mission of appearing higher in rankings and getting noticed in a search engine’s results. Today, there’s a whole new landscape. With social media, there’s an explosion of micro-targeting opportunities. For example, marketers can hone in on new moms of a certain age or married men who drink coffee and own a dog. Likewise, mobile has introduced a completely new distribution platform with a very different set of rules than traditional search engine marketing.

The bottom line

It’s difficult to find the right talent to fill both the creative and data-driven roles, much less to find the Yin and Yang in the same person. Few CMOs in large companies would consider themselves to be strong in both disciplines.

As story-telling and hard-core data-driven marketing become more important and more complicated, we are looking for founders that are great in both disciplines, or at least recognize that both camps are necessary to gain attention and relevance with today’s audience.

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The stream is broken

One of the key innovations in social media was Facebook’s newsfeed and it transformed the site from a social network built around profiles to a truly engaging communication platform. But as every site with a focus on social has adopted a feed, the noise seem to have reached an unproductive level. No viral marketing strategy is complete without a site encouraging their users to push updates to their social networks, tools help to cross-post easily (e.g. Twitter stream into Facebook) or re-post several times (apparently between 2-4 times is ideal) and breaking news situations clock the social stream with duplicates. No wonder that even the time of the day matters if your social signal is being heard or not.

All this unfiltered noise makes it harder and harder to find the really good stuff within a social stream and the opportunity seems to be shifting away from publishing to curation. Facebook has done a very good job with EdgeRank but as social services multiply we need better tools that do this across different sites (perhaps based on vertical-specific approaches) and take all social signals into account to determine what is relevant for me and cut out the noise and spam. I am excited about the progress that my portfolio company Summify has made over the last little while – their Email Digest product sends you a daily newsletter with the top stories from your Google Reader, Facebook and Twitter accounts (and the quality speaks for itself) but I would love to see more approaches to curation and filtering that brings productivity back to the social stream.

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New investment: Summify, a social news reader

August seems to be “funding announcement month” so after Empire Avenue and Barcode Hero, here comes a 3rd new investment: Summify is a social news reader that addresses the information overflow we all are experiencing with the explosion of social media. What that exactly means is best described by the Summify team on their blog:

People are increasingly getting their news from the social networks they’re part of (Twitter, Facebook, etc.), but this is rapidly getting overwhelming. If you’re connected with a few hundred people and companies, it’s hard to stay on top of the news they share. There’s currently no way to get the important stuff without going through all your news.

Summify gives you a river of news in a way that you can consume it in minutes, rather than hours. The important stuff bubbles up at the top so, however much time you have at your disposal, you always know you’re reading the important stuff first.

It’s a HTML5 web app (only modern browsers supported, sorry!). It aggregates all your incoming news from your Twitter and Google Reader account (Facebook and Google Buzz support on the way!). It then curates your news feed by using the social reactions gathered from your networks. The important news makes it to the Top News section. There’s also a Recent News section that allows you to see everything in chronological order.

Summify is the first Bootup Labs company I have invested in. I got to know the team after spending more time over at BootUp and was immediately impressed by their technical strength – Mircea and Cristian are probably the best “strong engineers & early-stage entrepreneurs combo” I have ever come across in Vancouver so I am extremely excited to working with them to build a great company!

The product is still in private beta but you can get an invite code by sending me an email (bwertz [at]wmediaventures [dot] com – looking forward to getting your feed-back!

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New investment: Empire Avenue, the world’s first influence stock market

Image representing Empire Avenue as depicted i...
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With the explosion of social media in the past few years, we now have millions of people broadcasting and curating information on a daily basis, making personal recommendations and endorsements to their friends and followers and creating personal brands on the Internet. But with that explosion of small “media outlets” it is getting harder and harder to identify what the really important people are that one should listen to. At the same time, those influential people want to know what their personal brand is worth.

In comes Empire Avenue, the first world’s first influence stock market. Empire Avenue is partly a stock market, partly a game. It is fun, addictive and has attracted over 15,000 members during their closed beta. Over 750,000 virtual share trades have occurred on the site in the past three months with a total value of over a 500 million Eaves, Empire Avenue’s virtual currency. As the site scales up, stock prices will provide valuable signals to information seekers (who are the influential people in my community that I should follow?), advertisers (who can credibly endorse my brand?) and the influencers themselves (what is my personal brand worth?).

The company not only has some early traction but they also have a superb team that knows how to build great products with minimal resources. So I am very happy to announce today that W Media Ventures just lead a seed round for the company that will provide the necessary means to accelerate the growth of the site.

And by the way, I think you should now go the Empire Avenue site and buy my stock – at 14.88 eaves it still looks like a steal to me…

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Search? Social media? Implicit user behavior? Differentiating good from bad content.

Michael Arrington’s post about search optimized content creation (“The end of hand crafted content“) started an interesting discussion about the role of social media in differentiating good content from bad content (check out Fred Wilson’s “Why social beats search” and the counterargument by Chris Dixon arguing that passed links will be critical inputs to better search-ranking algorithms but not replace search). I am with Chris on this one and see search and social media complementing each other rather than one replacing the other. We should also keep in mind that social media only does a good job in identfying “head” content but does not play a significant role when it comes to long-tail content. If I have a very specific question that I need an answer for I will always turn to search and not to my group of friends as chances are slim that those friends will have the right answer for me. Last but not least, I would like to remind everybody who complains about search spammers that social media is exposed to spamming in the same extent that search is – where there is money to be made, spammers will find ways to game the system and social media is and will not be an exception. So while social media might probably be the best way to discover current content, search will dominate long-tail content but both will have their spamming challenges

This brings up the question if there might be a third way to identify quality content and such a third way could be based on observing users’ implicit behavior. The big advantage of such an approach would be that it is very hard to game. One of the most developed approaches in this respect is Tynt Insight which tracks the copy and paste actions of users on a particular website. Tynt is now tracking over 7 billions page views / month and has collected some interesting data on how users are interacting with content and what this means for the quality of such content. So tracking implicit user behavior might supplement both page rank and passed links to create better ways to differentiate the good from the bad content. And as content creation is exploding, we definitely need to do a better job at that.

Disclosure: I am an investor in Tynt.