May 01, 2011

The TV-Web Tango New data suggests that TV and the Internet have a deep, tangled and evolving relationship. Consumers still love the tube, even though they multi-task while watching and DVR their favorite shows. At the same time the digerati have finally convinced their elder brethren that behavior trumps demographics in media targeting. Deloitte’s recent “State of the Media Democracy” Survey documented America’s continuing unbroken love affair with TV. Seventy-one percent of respondents said watching TV was their favorite thing. Eighty-six percent TV ads have the most impact on their buying decisions. Compare this to 47% who said online had the greatest influence; roughly half as much. And yet nearly three-quarters split their time and attention even when parked in front of a screen. Forty-two percent are online, another 29 percent are on mobile devices and 26 percent are IMing or texting. With all this activity, TV watching feels like a background activity so it’s hard to imagine how much branding or ad copy is being received or actually absorbed or how memorable or influential those ads really are. But just when you doubt it, think about the growing phenomenon of watching TV and simultaneously tweeting, commenting, reviewing or responding in real time. Think about the Oscars, the SuperBowl, the NCAA Basketball Tournament or the Grammys as occasions for split attention and all three screens operating at the same time focused on the same content engaging overlapping yet different sets of consumers. This creates a much richer, more connected and more engaging experience than just staring or screaming at the television. Some brands have begun to exploit this new behavior by mounting successful cross-channel promotions. There’s a huge share-of-mind media roadblock opportunity lurking here somewhere. When you consider that more than 80 percent of Americans currently use a device that connects them to the web and a similar scale exists for the use of mobile phones, you get the picture of an ADD universe of consumers who can be concentrated or fragmented based on content, attitude and timing. Who said mass audiences are dead? You just have to corral them. But when you do, sort them by what they do not by who they are. Here the TV gang seems to have learned a lesson from digital marketers. According to new research spearheaded by CBS’ Research guru Dave Poltrack age and sex don’t matter when it comes to TV ad effectiveness. And my hunch is the same holds true online. As a the result of a massive study of Nielsen and Catalina data, Dave came out squarely against the reigning conventional media wisdom by concluding, “There is no link, none, between the age of the specified demographic delivery of the campaign and the sales generated by that campaign… reliance on the 18 to 49 demographic is hazardous to all media and marketers partly because it doesn’t strongly correlate with purchases.” To some this feels like a defensive play by broadcasters eager to prorect and preserve their lion’s share of ad dollars. To others this signals a shift in consumer behavior that integrates rather than edits media choices. Remember disruptive new technology has not actually killed off any traditional media. New and old exist side by side interconnected in ways we are just beginning to understand.
Gaming Facebook's EdgeRank Algorithm Facebook thinks of everything. They’ve figured out how to connect hundreds of millions of people and how to expedite and accelerate sharing among them. They also figured out how to parse and moderate all that inbound information from your friends by embedding an algorithm that automatically decides which posts you see and which you don’t. This bit of mathematical legerdemain is called the EdgeRank algorithm. Like the formula for Coke or Google’s page ranking system, its top secret. If you buy the Facebook spin, this not-so-well-known tool allows you to focus on the most important people, brands and organizations in your life; the ones you care about most. By editing your newsfeed, Facebook spares you from a deluge of blah-blah posts, baby pictures from people you used to work with, infrequent posters, long lost relatives or people you friended out of courtesy. From what we can discern, the algorithm looks at frequency of posts, relevance (number of friends clicking, liking and commenting) plus your history of clicking and messaging within Facebook. Facebook is sorting content based on affinity, weight and relevancy. Each item in your news feed is considered an object. Any action taken relative to an object (like, share, comment, etc.) is called an edge. Each edge has a different mathematical value as does each object. Edge compared to objects equals a score that includes or excludes a specific post. Facebook does the math and presto! Your news feed and top news sections are populated. While this might be good news for individuals, it’s a serious challenge to brands; especially those brands who were counting on a multiplier effect to get free news feed space among the top stories of their million plus friends. Think about the math. If the average Facebook user has 130 friends, getting one brand posting to an individual yields 131 impressions. If your brand has 1 million friends that’s 131 million potential impressions for each post you land in the news feed. Yet the EdgeRank degrades that significantly. Baked into the formula is the fact that most people like a brand quickly( 50% within 80 minutes of visiting the brand page) and without a depth of emotion. Most “likers” rarely return to the brand page and are less likely to comment or interact with brand postings than they are with friends and acquaintances. As a result, according to the available research, no more than 20 percent of brand posts get through the algorithm and into the news feeds. That means, at best, you get 26 million rather than 131million potential impressions, eighty percent less than you were counting on. This presents a SEO-like challenge for marketers, which has spawned a new sub specialty dubbed “newsfeed marketing.” The idea, like SEO, is to game the system to get more brand content into news feeds. Working to achieve this subversive objective forces brands to better understand the Facebook gestalt and abandon their primitive thinking that Facebook is just another new, slightly nuanced advertising channel. To finesse the EdgeRank algorithm, you have to create content that will be scored positively on the basis of affinity, weight and relevance. The way to do this is to build and sustain frequent and topical engagement that your friends find interesting, worthy of comment and stimulating enough to spend time with. The building blocks for prompting more intense engagement are … Asking open-ended questions Inviting opinion, comment and conversation Connecting organically to offline news, cultural or sports events Limiting brand and sales language and catalog-like copy Creating games, quizzes or surveys Soliciting user-generated content Posting photos and videos Including links in posts Developing limited time offers Ironically, in our efforts to beat the system, we’ll better understand and utilize the Facebook platform as its being developed and extended. Let’s hope they don’t change the rules before we get a few wins on the scoreboard.

Danny Flamberg

I am a veteran marketing consultant working with leading and emerging brands

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