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MarTech and AdTech News Headlines Update on August 30, 2022

ROUNDING UP THE STACK

ADVERTISING: Put on your poker face. Google is updating ad platform serving capability to allow gambling ads on additional platforms. The policy will roll out sometime in September.

META: WhatsApp’s first end-to-end shopping experience just launched in India. Users can browse popular e-commerce app Jiomart’s entire grocery catalog, add items to cart, and make purchases without leaving WhatsApp. A sign of things to come?

SEO: Google’s helpful content update is out… and they want your feedback. The search giant opened a form so you can share whether you think your website was wrongly affected, among other things.

Millennials and Gen Z: What Content Works?

Millennials might be old now (some just turned 40!) but alongside Gen Z, they’re a highly sought after demographic. Both groups are digital natives and open to new and different digital messaging. You just need to get your content right. It’s not just about the type of content but how it’s delivered.

Gen Z Wants to BeReal

The latest sensation amongst Gen Z is the search for authenticity, and BeReal is the app that claims to offer this. BeReal is an instant photo sharing app that sends users a random notification each day informing them they have two minutes to take and post a selfie. You can take as many shots as you want in those two minutes but there’s not a lot of time to stage anything exotic. It’s being billed as the anti-influencer app.

How Big is BeReal?

Despite the hype, Instagram and TikTok don’t really have anything to worry about from BeReal just yet. Most of its 28 million downloads have happened this year. In May, 2.7 million downloads happened in the US followed by France (the app’s home market) with 1.68 million. At the moment, BeReal is offering a different user experience to the big players, but it’s clear the more personal and smaller reach model is appealing to some.

Lifetime downloads of social media app BeReal worldwide as of May 2022, by country.

Virtual Rapper Dropped

In a sign AI content developers have truly lost the plot, the world’s first AI rapper to be signed to a major label, FN Meka, has been dropped. Capitol Records dropped the digital character after its AI generated lyrics dropped the N-word and no one involved in the creative project was actually from the Black community. The project highlights the complete lack of authenticity in AI as well as the lack of diversity amongst developers in the space.

Peiter “Mudge” Zatko seems to know a thing or two about timing.

The hacker-turned-Twitter-security-chief decided this was the moment to go public with allegations that Twitter is negligent on security and that it misled regulators about safety. But then there’s this. Zatko (who was fired in January for “performance”) says execs 1) don’t actually know how many bots there are and 2) are actually incentivised to boost user counts instead of removing spam bots. Some even get bonuses of up to $10 million, he alleges. This is the ammo that Elon Musk needs to walk away from his buyer’s remorse in offering to buy Twitter for $44 billion. But the timing is definitely sus.

Twitter employees were reportedly told that their annual bonuses could be cut in half.

This follows the company’s first quarterly revenue drop in two years. It’s tough times for the company — it’s not just cooling demand for advertising, but ongoing leadership changes, and there’s also that whole nonsense with Elon.

To help people spot bots on Twitter, the company is testing verified phone numbers.

Presumably bots don’t have phone numbers.

Instagram really hates it when you make a video in Reels and then post it on TikTok.

Yes, you can download an edited clip… but you just won’t have audio on it. This is just an iOS “feature” for now.

TikTok is trying out a new feature in Southeast Asia that displays local content.

This is being tested alongside an option for creators to add location tags to their videos.

At this point you may already have heard of BeReal. No?

It’s ok — I only heard about this a couple of weeks ago. BeReal is the top non-gaming app on the U.S. App Store with 10 million daily active users — and that deserves your attention. What does it do? It sends you a notification at a random time during the day encouraging you to post a photo of whatever you’re doing, and turns on both your front and back cameras. It says it’s all about capturing an unfiltered snapshot of your life.

NYT has a hunch of why BeReal is getting so much traction.

“The app can’t make people be ‘authentic’ online. But it can remind us of an era when being online felt very different.”

Meta, not surprisingly, has noticed BeReal’s popularity.

And not surprisingly, it’s copying the same functionality for Instagram. It says “Candid Challenges” is just an “internal prototype”. For now.

Google is figuring out if you’re trying to game search results — and it’s going to down-rank your entire site.

This is different from previous algo updates, which targeted specific pages. This new update (just named “helpful content update” — no more animal names) is site-wide. Keyword stuffing, repetition, or generally just creating unhelpful content will get you less visibility. Time to audit your pages.

ROUNDING UP THE STACK

E-COMMERCE: Shopping carts curated by… celebrities? Yep! Instacart’s new feature helps you find shopping inspiration by browsing the wishlisted products of famous influencers. Sounds like a new influencer marketing opportunity…

BUSINESS: You’ve heard of Buy now, pay later (BNPL), right? Get ready for Donate now, pay later (DNPL). A new company helps you donate to charitable causes by lending money that users pay back in equal, interest-free installments. Nice.

E-COMMERCE: Drop it like it’s hot. Brands used to announce products. Now they just “drop” them. Product drops are on the rise and they’re not going anywhere soon. Prepare your countdown clocks, influencer announcements, and collabs…

SEO: So long, International Targeting report. Google has deprecated the feature and will soon remove it from the Search Console. Don’t worry though… hreflang will continue to be supported, processed, and used in search.

BEREAL: It’s not just hype. The latest social media sensation now has more than 10 million active users. That’s a staggering 1000x growth in just over a year… Whoa.

AMAZON: Not just for e-commerce? One financial service used Amazon’s targeting to reach hundreds of millions of people in India. Something to keep in mind if you’re looking for new ad channels for your services brand…

TIKTOK: 87% of users are more likely to watch a LIVE video and 76% are more likely to explore trending posts and hashtags when considering a purchase, according to TikTok data. Good to know if you’re in “shoppertainment.”

GOOGLE: Running out-of-home ads? Display & Video 360 now supports digital ads in stadiums, bus stops, billboards, and elevators. And while you obviously can’t target a specific audience, you can pick a time and place for your ads. Nice.

INSTAGRAM: Point your camera right… here. Instagram quietly added the option to create QR codes for posts, Reels, locations, tags, and more. Sounds like it could be a useful tool for marketing campaigns…

GOOGLE: Smell that? It’s Google’s AI Test Kitchen. Their new app lets you test experimental AI-powered systems before they enter production. Plenty of these models may find their way into marketing… So if you want to test them first, now’s your chance.

GOOGLE: Be careful who you let post on your website. A search expert at Google recently explained that you are responsible for all content on your website. Meaning, for example, that websites collecting user reviews can be flagged for low quality.

INSTAGRAM: Can’t take the copycat out of the Insta. Instead of miming TikTok, Instagram is now planning to swipe from BeReal with Candid Challenges. Like they say, if there’s a new social media trend, you can be sure Instagram will add it.

E-COMMERCE: Is this Amazon’s next big competitor? Pinduoduo, the largest Chinese e-commerce company, is preparing to enter the US market. That could be good news for merchants and marketers hoping for new opportunities…

GOOGLE: Is Chrome’s RSS feed reader headed for desktop? Seems that way. A Google Chrome engineer said edits to the mobile feed reader come first, implying that a desktop reader is in the works. Exciting.

APPLE: Podcasters, take your headphones off for a sec. Apple is rolling out backend changes that could prevent spam, improve crawling, and shorten the approval process. Sounds like podcast distribution is about to become a little easier…

SOCIAL MEDIA: Want to know why Gen Z loves BeReal? Because it offers “deeper, more personalized experiences” compared to apps like Instagram. Something to keep in mind for all your marketing efforts if you’re targeting this demographic.

SEARCH: Contrary to popular belief, TikTok is not replacing Google among Gen Z. At least not in the near future. According to new independent research, youngsters still turn to Google or Google Maps first. Good to know.

SEO: Nothing is permanent… not even indexed pages. According to Google’s John Mueller, any URL can drop out of Google’s index over time. Yes, even your most important pages. What can you do? Keep that URL relevant, unique, and helpful.

INSTAGRAM: Confession time. Instagram admits they’ve “leaned too far into video” in recent months. Does this mean their algorithm will prioritize images soon?

GOOGLE: Wave your last goodbyes to Bid Manager API v1.1. Google announced that they’re shutting down this version on February 28, 2023, so make sure you migrate to v2 by then.

Virtual Influencing Deals

In a sign real human influencers are becoming too hard to deal with, retail clothing brand, PacSun, recently partnered with virtual influencer, and “queen of the metaverse”, Miquela. While real influencers shouldn’t worry about being pushed out of the market, the virtual alternative does have some advantages, especially for clothing brands. Miquela will never age, will fit perfectly into everything and won’t cause a scene outside the metaverse.

The Appeal of Virtual Influencers

According to a recent survey in China, just under 75% of respondents favoured the creative freedom and flexibility that comes with virtual characters. 65% liked the timeless quality while just under 50% liked the zero risk of public scandals. Whether these traits give virtual influencers any credibility with consumers is another story.

Advantages of virtual humans in China as January 2022

Brand Mascots as Vtubers

Using virtual influencers doesn’t require creating something from scratch. Many brands already have characters or mascots that can fill the virtual role. Kellogg’s is transforming Tony the Tiger into an interactive Vtuber. Similar to a virtual influencer a Vtuber is an online entertainer who streams behind their avatar. Tony’s streaming debut will be some online gaming with big name Twitch streamers.

Kellogg’s is transforming Tony the Tiger into an interactive Vtuber.

Interesting Marketing Video and Report

Stop motion featuring original Street Fighter arcade characters verus Redbull. #stopmotion #topanime #StreetFighter

Starbucks uses stop motion animation and historical moments to defend Mondays.

Live action and animation bring books alive.

We made cute animated critters for Prudential’s Ethics video. Remember, don’t trust Short Cut the Crab.

Oldy but a goody, an airline safety message takes on a new meaning at a soccer pitch in front of 65,000 fans.

We always suspected presentations were pure evil.

So many media exits, so little focus.

This fascinating chart lined up all of the recent ones, including Político (5x) and The Athletic (8.5x) to Axios (5.3x) and my current hyper-focused fave Industry Dive (at 5x). The one winning trend? Niche. “Media companies with a clear/niche focus are more likely to find strategic partners and generate a strong exit multiple for investors, as opposed to outlets that focus on scale and generalist content.” Indeed.

Read this carefully: YouTube is more popular with teens than TikTok.

I’m just going to write that again in bold in case you thought it was a typo: YouTube is more popular with teens than TikTok. Pew Research did their thing and surveyed teens and how they used YouTube, TikTok, Snapchat, Insta, FB, Twitter, Twitch, WhatsApp, Reddit, and Tumblr. “YouTube is the most popular social media platform among teens ages 13 to 17.” Apparently 95% of teens surveyed use YouTube (compared to TikTok’s 67%). What’s surprising is that it isn’t just about the platform; it’s about the format. Video essays (still huge with teens — have been for about a decade) are first-person commentaries — cultural, political, academic — and decidedly long-form, between 10 minutes to over an hour. TL;DR: It’s not all short-form video.

YouTube is planning a marketplace for streaming services.

Think of this as a channel store. You can already subscribe to a bunch of cable channels — and add on subscription services like HBO — on YouTube TV (in the U.S. only) for about 65 bucks a month. This new store will let you buy more streaming services.

Snapchat launched its paid subscription about six weeks ago and it’s all gone horribly right.

Snapchat Plus now has a million subscribers paying about four dollars a month for extra features like seeing who rewatched their story, special backgrounds, a new app icon, and priority story replies, which “makes Plus subscribers’ responses more visible when replying to Snap Stars (public figures and other creators with a verified Snapchat presence)”. I love it — Snap has figured out how to make money off its audience by allowing them to serve their own audiences better.

Industry, the HBO show about financial traders, has some of the most potent sound design I have ever experienced.

The brash foreground story dialogue is great on its own — bracing enough to make you wonder how loudly to laugh because of what that would say about you — but that background chatter is OMG incredible. It ranges from finance jargon that is convincing by also being nonsense to my uneducated ears (“I’m told this trade will come cheap to comps and trade well on the breaks.”) to being hilariously withering or plain rude (“I tell you, ladies and gentlemen, this morning I am horny for flow”). I love the show — and its sound design — so much I could listen to a wall-to-wall audio stream of just its background dialogue all day as I work. (“Is anybody here young enough to give a fuck about meme stocks?”) Media product idea: I bet they’d make a killing if they sold a subscription to it. It’s more than just brilliant — it’s fun.

Google Meet finally got their shared media experience feature going.

You can now watch YouTube and listen to Spotify with other people on the call. It feels like it’s two years too late pandemic-wise though, doesn’t it? Also, it’s all a part of the confusing and completely ignorable merge between Meet and Duo. (My branding headache was activated when they updated the icon for Duo, renamed it Google Meet, then updated the Google Meet icon to all-green…and named it Google Meet (original).) Er, okay Google.

This typeface is inspired by the earthquake in Bangladesh.

It’s called Seismic. Seismic was designed by a type foundry called Universal Thirst that specialises in Indic and Latin scripts. They’re based in Bangalore and Reykjavik. That website is incredibly fun despite the fact that some of the typefaces don’t show up. And Seismic itself is rocking my world: I love its quavery irregular quality that evokes the earthquakes.

Instagram wants to help you sell more during the holidays

You know how the saying goes: Whoever prepares the best wins the holiday season.

Or something like that.

Point is, Instagram just published a useful guide to getting the most out of your product catalog and product tags that could come in handy this year.

Big shoppers: According to Instagram, nearly half of active users shop on the platform every week, and businesses using product tags get 37% more sales than the ones that don’t.

Tagging and bagging: Their guide walks you through important Instagram Shopping features and shows you:

  • How to set up and maintain your product catalog.
  • How product tags work.
  • How to use tags on different formats including Reels, Stories, and Live videos.

Why we care: By using all the features at your disposal to optimize your store, you could position your brand to make more profits with less effort during the hectic holiday season.

And speaking of features…

Now you can generate backgrounds from text prompts

Text-to-image seems to be one of the few trends that didn’t start on TikTok.

But it didn’t take long to get on the social media app, either.

What’s going on: TikTok just launched a text-to-image effect called “AI greenscreen” which lets you create a background based on a text prompt.

Right now AI greenscreen generates images that are thematically close to inputs, but much more abstract than the images generated by, say, DALL·E.

Why we care: TikTok’s effect gives creators and brands the ability to conjure unique video backgrounds quickly and easily.

Be among the first to use it, and it could help your content pop in the app’s busy feed.

The secret signal that can boost your app’s App Store rankings

When you launch an app on the App Store, it’s tempting to “set it and forget it.”

But the truth is, you need to tweak and optimize the metadata to make sure your app stays among the top search results for the relevant keywords… Kind of like SEO, but for apps.

Now, when it comes to App Store optimization (ASO), most marketers are tracking three signals:

  • Keywords.
  • Ratings.
  • Overall downloads.

Nailing these can definitely help you appear above the competition on the results page.

… But Appfigures found another hidden signal that can accelerate your app’s climb to the top, regardless of the other three parameters:

Trending downloads. In other words, an increase in downloads within a short period of time.

See, when a particular app is currently ranking second on a highly competitive keyword, it has the least number of downloads and rankings.

Maybe it didn’t have the most relevant parameters, but it did have a 75% growth in the number of downloads in the last few days.

Why does this happen? Simple: App Store’s algorithm likes positive trends.

If it realizes that an app is “blowing up,” that’s a signal that the app should rank higher in search results because it’s relevant and people like it.

So if you want to catapult your app to the top of App Store’s search rankings, you want to design a combination of:

Proper keyword placement + organic and honest rankings + trending downloads.

That’s why a big launch can give you a headstart, especially if you’ve done all the other optimization well.

So make sure you promote the heck out of your app, and watch it climb.

Why you should follow marketing principles, not case studies

You read a case study.

You go, “Woah, we need to do this.”

You try doing the thing, just the way they did it in the case study. And… It doesn’t work.

What’s going on?

This scenario is more common than you may think.

Rand Fishkin says it’s because most people don’t understand the distinction between effective tactics and marketing principles.

And he’s right. Let’s break it down.

Effective tactics are the tips and techniques you see in case studies—content marketing tricks, specific advice for ad performance, viral ad campaign ideas.

Marketing principles are the foundational things which lead to good marketing. For example, “repetition influences perception” is a marketing principle.

The important bit: Marketing principles are the tools you use to come up with effective tactics.

If you only read about tactics and try to copy them—which is what will happen if you copy case studies—you’re not getting to the root of the issue.

So the next time you read a case study, take a minute to do the following:

  • Identify the tactics being used.
  • Identify the marketing principles those tactics rely on.
  • Let the principles, not the tactics, guide your own campaigns.

Instead of copying tactics, rely on marketing principles, and use the tactics as inspiration.

Your marketing will perform better that way.

ROUNDING UP THE STACK

GOOGLE: Ads API version 11.1 just dropped. This time, there’s been a bunch of new functionalities and changes added to Assets, Audiences, Bidding, Campaigns, and more. If you’re interested in technical info, we recommend reading the release notes.

APPLE: Finally. You can now edit Apple Search Ads in bulk instead of editing each one manually. However, don’t celebrate too soon…The first version of this feature is a bit too technical, so we recommend testing it out first.

B2B: Sorry, sales teams. According to reports, 77% of B2B buyers prefer self-serve over sales during their buyer journey… meaning they want to learn from trusted sources like review websites, forums, etc. Interesting.

BUSINESS: How does inflation affect consumers’ mindsets? Studies say that non-essential categories may suffer, while shoppers are relying more than ever on discounts and special offers to save as much money as possible. Keep that in mind during the holiday season…

SEO: Poor affiliates. Looks like they’re the biggest casualties of Google’s July update. To make up for lost rankings, some have started swapping dofollow affiliate tracking URLs with other tracking URLs. Nobody’s sure if that will help, though.

E-COMMERCE: Is inflation afraid of… ghosts? Because it seems like it won’t affect Halloween at all. Big retailers report “huge” excitement for the holidays and expect to top last year’s earnings. Good news if you’re planning Halloween campaigns.

ADVERTISING: Speaking of retailers, Walmart reported 30% year-on-year growth on advertising revenue. They’ve also seen 12% year-on-year e-commerce growth… Pretty good, considering worries about the economy.

APPLE: Surprise, surprise. After slapping advertisers with iOS14 and App Tracking Transparency (ATT), Apple may start showing ads on more of its own products. Which makes us wonder… Will Apple be as strict with privacy regulations on their platforms?

META: Bye bye, Special Ad Audiences. Meta is shutting down its lookalike audience alternative for housing ad sets and will pause any remaining ad sets containing them on October 12. That gives you two months to adjust to the change.

BUSINESS: Personalization matters. According to new Elastic research, 84% prefer a personalized user experience, while 88% say that they’re more likely to continue shopping if a website provides such service. Good to know.

GOOGLE: Merchant Center update. Free listing accounts with the “Insufficient contact information” and “Missing return and refund policy” status won’t be disapproved automatically anymore. Instead, Google will limit their visibility until you fix the issue.

ANALYTICS: Good news if you’re working with websites with short data history or low conversion volume. Google has changed its Data Driven Attribution model requirements for Google Analytics 4, which means you may finally get access.

TIKTOK: Google for Gen Z? While it might be too soon to verify, it appears younger generations prefer to use TikTok and Instagram for online search. Who knows… maybe you’ll need a TikTok SEO strategy in the near future…

E-COMMERCE: Don’t forget to optimize your online store for a smooth mobile experience. According to PayPal research, the majority of online consumers use mobile to make purchases. Something to think about with the holiday season approaching.

AMAZON: Oh, speaking of holidays, Amazon is increasing seller fees during the season “to contend with soaring inflation.” If you’re using Fulfillment by Amazon, plan for an additional 35 cents expense per item sold. Bummer.

Platforms are opening up about their algorithms

Some tech companies keep their algorithms “close to the chest”… and some are loosening the top button.

Meta, for example, revealed the design principles Instagram uses to create experiences that feel like extensions of users’ home feeds…

Almost feels like home: First, Instagram generates potential candidates based on the pages users engage with the most.

Then it ranks candidates based on overall engagement and content before recommending them. Meta explains this process in detail in their post.

You may also like… Meanwhile, a Chinese regulatory body published a list of 30 algorithms of the country’s most popular apps including Douyin—or TikTok, as it’s known by the rest of the world.

Why we care: Social media platforms are increasingly becoming channels where it’s possible for brands to gain exposure—and even go viral—with short video content.

And apps like TikTok just keep topping the downloads chart.

Having in-depth knowledge of how platform recommendations work can help you “play” the algorithm and get your content in front of more people.

Business messaging could be vital for your business

Want to connect with customers? Then you might want to hold the “hold music”…

Meta published a study showing that Business Messaging is becoming crucial for both business and consumers.

To give you an idea… One in three shoppers chat with brands online at least once a week.

… So please leave a message: Meta’s survey reveals that 64% of users would rather hop into a brand’s DM than call. Meanwhile,

  • 40% of consumers are messaging more frequently compared to pre-pandemic levels.
  • 90% of brands believe messaging is essential to their success.
  • 80% of brands plan to maintain and even increase their messaging effectiveness.

Hello there: The study also shows that 38%–42% of brands across multiple industries use messaging as an acquisition channel.

Makes sense, since it’s often the first real touch point between a customer and a brand.

Why we care: Messaging is convenient. It’s how people talk to each other… and clearly, it’s how they’d like to talk to brands, too.

And in addition to helping you build instant relationships with new and existing customers, it also gives you the opportunity to showcase promotions like offers, upsells, and so on.

Speaking of building instant relationships with customers…

Why Google Ads spacing matters in the battle for organic visibility

Ever felt like organic content is slowly getting squeezed out of Google’s first page?

That’s because it is.

John Doherty from Credo, for example, claims that every time he searches Google, ads are getting taller and taking up more of the results page.

John even calculated the number of pixels Google Ads are taking up:

A single ad with sitelinks is 280 pixels tall.

An ad without sitelinks is approximately 40 pixels.

The spacing between ads is 40 pixels.

So if Google displays an ad with sitelinks and 3 more regular ads, it will take almost 560 pixels total on desktop, out of the 600 pixels reserved for the SERP.

That means the first organic result can actually end up on the bottom of the page. On mobile, there’s a chance you won’t even see an organic post before you scroll down.

Will it get better? Possibly not. Google’s ad revenue is their main income source. There’s a chance the company may sell even more placements to make up for recent losses.

So how can you win the visibility battle if it’s only going to get worse?

Here are a few tactics to try…

Spend the dough. If you can’t beat them, join them. You may need to bid on branded keywords, and even on keywords you built organically. Because if you don’t, someone else will.

Invest in content marketing. Drive traffic to your website by promoting valuable content and being present online.

Encourage visitors to subscribe to your email list and retarget them with remarketing ads and email marketing.

Move on from Google. No, we don’t mean you should kill off all your SEO efforts. Just try to diversify and gain awareness through other channels.

Discord, Slack, and Reddit communities are “the new blogs” when it comes to engagement and valuable discussions. Building a community there is definitely worth a shot.

It’s going to be a battle against the tide… But as long as your pages aren’t drowning in the dark depths of search results, there’s hope.

3 examples of highly engaging thank-you pages

Know the best time to ask for referrals or gather more data from your customers?

It’s not after they receive their order.

It’s right after they make a purchase or subscribe.

While analyzing funnels for our Stacked Marketer Pro reports, we ran into a few solid pages that have at least one idea or element you might want to add to your own.

Here they are:

1. How did you hear about us?

We really like how PEEL executed this. The page still contains order info, but also gives the option of selecting how customers heard about them.

With attribution becoming harder, this seems like a must-have for brands.

With attribution becoming harder, this seems like a must-have for brands.

2. Share with friends and get a discount.

Goli uses this pop-up to encourage buyers to share Goli’s products in exchange for a coupon.

It’s brilliant because you instantly turn your customers into ambassadors.

If you’re not comfortable doing this after the first purchase, it’s worth testing on repeat buyers.

If you’re not comfortable doing this after the first purchase, it’s worth testing on repeat buyers.

3. Next steps.

LadyBoss, a women’s weight loss brand, offers a great example of giving customers next steps.

Whether that means joining a Facebook Group, installing an app, or signing up for an SMS list, just make sure you have it on your thank-you page.

Whether that means joining a Facebook Group, installing an app, or signing up for an SMS list, just make sure you have it on your thank-you page.

It’s the time to keep your customers engaged!

ROUNDING UP THE STACK

BUSINESS: Head’s up if you’re planning free shipping offers this holiday season… The US Postal Service intends to increase shipping costs over the holidays “to help cover extra handling costs.” That’s understandable, but ouch.

E-COMMERCE: Dab, dab, smack. Lipstick and makeup sales are up 20%, proving the beauty industry is thriving despite inflation. Part of it could be due to weddings and returns to offices, and part of it to… well, recession trends.

GOOGLE: Content tool alert. Google just released a demo of Talk to Books, a tool that pulls search engine results straight from book excerpts. Could be a great way to take your content to new levels.

ANALYTICS: Running Google Analytics 4 through Google Tag Manager? Charles Farina has a template that can help you bypass the clunky dL.push({ecommerce: null}) between e-commerce pushes. Nice!

SNAPCHAT: OK then. Snap says that their audience is unique and you can’t reach them easily anywhere else… And they have stats to prove it.

SEARCH: Ever heard of IndexNow? It’s an open source protocol that helps publishers push content to search engines. It’s growing and now accounts for 7% of all new URL clicks on Bing. Will we see more instant indexing in the future?

Is this the future of social media?

Forget gazing into crystal balls, just watch what the kids are doing.

According to Pew Research, teenagers are moving away from Facebook and Twitter to YouTube and… Want to take a guess?

Yes, it’s TikTok. While YouTube is still the undisputed king with 95% of teenagers using it, TikTok continues to escalate in popularity.

67% of American teenagers aged 13–17 use it frequently, with 16% saying they’re on it almost constantly.

Snapchat and Instagram are also popular, with six out of ten teenagers using both.

These platforms… Not so much: In 2015, 71% of teenagers used Facebook. Today the number is 32%. Twitter is farther behind with just 23% of teen users. Tumblr has just 5%.

Why we care: Facebook won’t dominate the social advertising space forever, so if you’re targeting a younger audience, plan and diversify your marketing efforts accordingly.

On the bright side, Facebook is still immensely popular among older users, who also happen to have more money to spend, so maybe don’t ditch those ad campaigns just yet.

Microsoft and Google are fine-tuning search

… And it’s almost like they don’t want customers to leave.

Tell us more: Bing is adding annotations to shopping results that will show users additional information about selected products, including:

  • Potential online coupons you can automatically apply.
  • Pricing history, for transparency about the current product value.
  • Informing you whether or not a brand is following ethical principles.

The feature is currently available across the US, UK, Canada, Australia, Germany, and France.

That’s sticky: Meanwhile, Google added several updates designed to make users reluctant to leave the search results page. Like these, for example:

  • Higher quality snippets: Google is using machine learning to understand the “general consensus” about the topic and provide more accurate answers.
  • Information literacy: Improvements to Fact Check Explorer and Reverse image search should make it easier for users to validate information.
  • An expanded About this result: Users will now get even more context for your website, including online reviews, entity owners, how widely a source is circulated, and so on.

Why we care: Search is evolving heavily to improve the customer experience and reduce needless click-throughs. It’s also becoming increasingly shopping friendly.

So optimize your web content accordingly, and do your best to stay in Google’s and Bing’s graces.

Because who wants to add them to your competition, right?

5 ways to test your Google Shopping ads and increase ROI

How do you know if you’re squeezing the maximum potential out of your Google Ads?

The answer starts with the letters “AB” and ends with the word “testing.”

Now, the Google Ads split test feature is only available for Search and Display campaigns…

But if you’re willing to think outside the box, WordStream offers 5 creative ways to test multiple variations of Shopping ads.

Let’s split…

Option 1: Test product feed attributes. Titles, images, or extensions are attributes you can optimize for best results.

Decide what you’ll test and then create equal groups of products using one of two methods:

  • Cluster analysis method. Split the ads based on historical performance. For example, by clicks, costs, or conversion value.
  • Random split method. If you use numerical product IDs, you can split them by odd or even numbers. Once you make the split, make changes to product IDs in your test groups and look for best results.

Option 2: Test campaign settings. For things like return on ad spend (ROAS) or different campaign types, you’ll need to split something other than IDs. Here are three different splits you can try:

Customer Match split method. You can make a cookie split in your customer relationship management (CRM) software to target two different sets of first-party audiences.

By doing this, you create two different campaigns with two Customer Match audiences that you can analyze. Also, by splitting cookies, you can actually get a random split. Nice.

Geo test split method. This one’s easy and reliable. Split your campaigns into smaller geographical regions, or geos. Each geo goes into either group A or group B.

Use one group for testing, and one to serve control campaigns. It’s easy to monitor, as long as you remember that advertising swimming gear in Alaska differs from advertising it in Florida.

Campaign split method. Divide your campaigns into two similar groups with equal metrics.

Use one group to make changes and the other for your current best practices. Monitor changes in the “test” group and note the difference in performance.

Yes, it’s a bit technical, so we recommend reading the whole article. It’s an outside of the box method that may help you understand your campaigns better…

And maybe get you a few new customers.

One-and-done solution to reach the inbox more often and fight spoofing

It’s Q3, which means you’re probably planning ways to build your email lists for Q4 and beyond. Awesome.

But building an email list is one thing. Actually landing in the inbox? That’s a whole ‘nother ball game.

One of the struggles we see constantly is email marketers investing in awesome campaigns… only to end up in spam or the Promotions tab in Gmail.

Why? Because most email marketers don’t authenticate their domains.

What is domain authentication? It’s a way to provide verifiable information about the origin of the message. In other words, it proves the domain owner sent the email, and not someone else.

Why is it useful? Two reasons:

  • It bumps up your deliverability. Most inbox providers prefer authenticated emails, so your chances of avoiding the spam folder increase significantly. It can also help you reach the Primary tab in Gmail—but doesn’t guarantee it.
  • It protects you against malicious emailers. When authenticating your domain, you can tell the receiving server to reject unauthenticated emails. This way, nobody can spoof your domain.

How do you authenticate a domain? There are four things you need to be fully authenticated: DKIM, SPF, DMARC and BIMI.

  • First, you should set up DKIM. It’s probably the easiest.
  • SPF is next because you also need it for DMARC right after.
  • Third on the list is DMARC with a “reject” or “quarantine” policy, because that’s needed for BIMI.
  • Finally, set up BIMI to finish authenticating your domain. Top it off with a nice profile picture in some inboxes so you can stand out in the crowd of emails.

… And just like that, your chances of landing in the inbox increase dramatically.

ROUNDING UP THE STACK

GOOGLE: Head’s up if you’re targeting countries—there’s been an API change. The current “sales_country” field for Shopping and Performance Max campaigns will be replaced by a more generic “feed_label” that can accept any string. Rollout will be complete by the end of September.

GOOGLE: … And while we’re on the topic, the “targetCountry” and “country” fields are getting cut from the Content API for Shopping. Google recommends updating the code to support the “feedLabel” field so it doesn’t impact or break your API integration.

TWITTER: Whoa, that’s cool. It seems Twitter is testing featuring multiple media—videos, gifs, images—in a single tweet. We can’t wait to see the creative possibilities this feature can bring.

New ad automation tool optimizes creatives and audiences

Your campaign to-do list just got a little shorter…

Meta announced they’re releasing Advantage+, their ad automation tool, to advertisers worldwide.

Fewer steps, smaller spend: Advantage+ removes manual steps from ad creation and automates up to 150 ad combinations at once, maximizing your ad performance and lowering spend.

Meta says its two new features will help small businesses in particular save time and money:

  • Advantage+ creative selects ad creatives that users are most likely to engage with.
  • Advantage audience creates a personalized audience based on your Facebook Page information and optimizes over time to reach the best possible customers.

Why we care: It’s crunch time for many businesses swimming against inflation, crisis, and privacy regulations.

According to studies conducted on 1,300 small businesses, the costs of customer acquisition through ads rose significantly after Apple’s changes.

Artificial intelligence (AI) advertising is becoming more popular—and it could help your ads land exactly where they’re supposed to, while increasing performance and lowering costs.

Speaking of lowering costs…

Are online prices falling?

Gravity never felt so good.

According to Adobe Digital Price Index, e-commerce prices were down by 2% in July compared to June.

It’s been a while: That may not look significant, but it’s the first price decrease since before the pandemic started.

Out of 18 categories, 14 have shown a downturn in pricing, including:

  • Electronic gadgets, with the biggest yearly drop (9.3%).
  • Toys are close second (8.2%).
  • Apparel had the biggest monthly price decrease (6.2%).

Not everything’s cheaper, though: Online food prices leaped 13.4% compared to last year, and pet products jumped by 12.6%.

Why we care: It’s still too early to predict if this is deflation or simply a sign of people spending less on pleasure and more on essentials…

But the Adobe Digital Price Index research can help you gauge whether you’re overpricing or underpricing your products.

By the way, if you’re in e-commerce, we’ve got two tips for you…

6 dangers to look out for if you rely on automation

Yes, automation software is awesome.

But as Luke Carlino points out in this post, being too dependent on automation can have unfortunate and sometimes even fatal consequences for your business.

He argues there are six dangers you should pay attention to when using automation.

Let’s stay frosty…

1 – Automated Bidding: While it’s convenient to let an algorithm do all the bidding, don’t leave this feature unattended.

Lack of human input and the wrong automated bidding strategies have cost companies countless dollars. Make sure yours is not one of them.

2 – Setting and forgetting: Your automation software is like another employee and you should treat it as such—especially in an ever-changing industry like digital marketing.

Make sure your tools are constantly optimized for best performance and up to date with the current marketing trends.

3 – Automated messaging: Companies short on time and money usually rely too heavily on automated messaging.

However, with these tools there’s always the danger of sending too many messages, irritating customers, and even slowing down website performance.

4 – Losing brand voice: Relying too much on automation can make your brand message feel inhuman—or worse, out of touch with your customer.

Never run ads, creative assets, customer support, or sales messages without editing them carefully—or hiring a copywriter or editing to look them over for you.

5 – Vanity metrics: Some automated metrics look cool but actually don’t mean much. Stay on top of your real return on investment (ROI) and return on ad spend (ROAS) at all times to avoid unpleasant performance surprises.

6 – Automating non-automated stuff: Things like cybersecurity, customer engagement, and social media posts should never be automated, even if they can be. Just… don’t do it.

Long story short, use automation as a tool… but don’t rely on it too heavily. All tools require skill and maintenance to use them well, and automation is no different.

How to improve your product’s perceived value with comparison

A few years back, someone on Reddit posted about a scam they encountered in China.

The Redditor and their tour group entered a store selling pearls.

At first, the salesman showed the group an array of obviously fake pearls and asked them, “What’s wrong with these pearls?”

Of course, people were quick to point out that they were fake.

The salesman showered them with compliments, telling them how smart they were for identifying the fake pearls.

Lesson over, the salesman brought out the “real” pearls. These were also fake.

But because of the setup, the tourists were more likely to believe that the second group of fake pearls were real.

Here’s how you can use this in marketing without scamming people: There are two principles at play.

The first one is manufactured liking, and the second is comparison.

Here’s how to use each in your marketing:

Manufactured liking: When people feel smart, seen, and recognized, they’re more likely to buy. You can do this in your copy. Write things that your customers agree with, and avoid talking down to your audience.

Comparison: By showing a visibly worse alternative before presenting your product, you’re increasing its perceived value—and boosting conversion.

ROUNDING UP THE STACK

GOOGLE: After a whole lot of fuss, studies show that Google’s most recent product review update was “incredibly mild” towards ranking changes compared to its March update. So if your website got hit, it probably didn’t get hit hard. Here’s hoping.

MARKETING: Data harvesting and marketing are inseparable. But a lot has changed in web scraping over the last few years. This discussion provides some creative answers for scraping in 2022, and suggests a few tools as well.

GOOGLE: See you in court. The US Department of Justice (DOJ) is preparing to sue Alphabet Inc., Google’s parent company. Why? For illegally dominating the digital advertising market.

AMAZON: … Meanwhile, in a separate episode of tech Law and Order, Amazon is suing a Rhode Island company for allegedly selling fake reviews and “artificially inflating sellers’ feedback.” Looks like the fight against fake reviews is heating up. Gather reviews accordingly.

Building a home studio

Video conferencing from home is becoming so mainstream that some new Singapore condos now come with a studio space. A sound proofed office is a bit overkill for most but creating a professional home studio isn’t as difficult as it might appear. A reasonable investment in lighting, camera, audio, background and bandwidth will vastly improve your video output.

What do content consumers want?

Home video and audio recording setups mean anyone can create a polished piece of content. A recent study on podcasts found that while producers know what they want to create they rarely take into account the reason someone might listen. The listener experience is ignored. The study recommends the Glaft Model when creating content. Its interconnected components — Goal, Attraction, Format, Technology and Listeners — all need to be addressed for something to resonate beyond the producer’s focus.

A growing audience

Why wouldn’t creators jump on the podcast bandwagon? Global podcast consumption is growing dramatically. In 2019, there were just under 275 million podcast listeners, a number that’s predicted to rise to 505 million by 2024. Understanding their needs when it comes to consuming content gives creators a competitive edge.

Number of podcast listeners worldwide from 2019 to 2024 (in millions)

Meet the new boomers

It appears Gen Z is turning on the Millennials. Both demographics are digital natives, and both have enjoyed slinging the “Ok, Boomer” phrase at their elders. But, the emergence of the Millennial pause — the half second taken to check the phone is recording before you speak — has become a parody favourite amongst Gen Z TikTokers. Apparently Gen Z are so comfortable with video that they know their device is recording. The online world is constantly evolving which means even those raised digitally eventually “age out of it”.
What we’re looking at

Interesting Marketing Video and Report

Freeride mountain bikes are given a spectacular and cinematic look. Basically the opposite to extreme sport videos.

An architecture video that doesn’t rely on drones and complex shots. Simple shots that move with the audio.

It’s the t-shirt that makes the man.

Finally… Facebook adds B2B targeting and Instagram schedules posts

Sip your coffee, sit back, and relax.

Because you’re going to like these two new updates from Meta…

Hello, B2B targeting: Facebook just added new targeting options based on job titles and other criteria to help you reach:

  • IT-decision makers.
  • Business decision makers.
  • Business decision-makers in engineering, HR, strategy, and marketing based on the job titles.
  • New active businesses created in the last 6, 12, or 24 months.

Ah, schedules: No need to go to Creator Studio to schedule your posts anymore… You can finally schedule posts and Reels right inside Instagram.

Why we care: If you’re running B2B ads, new targeting options can help you reach the right people and get more out of Facebook.

And what social media manager hasn’t been waiting for the ability to schedule posts in Instagram?

Users can more easily control what ads they see, and more

Three things to know about TikTok…

Power to the users: The platform just added the “About this ad” button to help users understand why they’re seeing a particular ad in their feed.

It also reveals the advertiser and gives users options for controlling the kinds of ads they see—or don’t see—in the future.

Now tracking orders: TikTok is also testing the Order center, a new profile button that lets users track their in-app shopping activity.

The button appears next to the Edit profile button and opens an e-commerce dashboard that shows payment details, wish lists, order status, and more.

… Meanwhile, in Asia, a recent study shows TikTok is edging closer to YouTube when it comes to market share.

YouTube currently earns 54% of all online video consumption, but TikTok added a whooping 14% year-on-year and is now sitting on 37% of the entire market.

Why we care: TikTok continues to build on its e-commerce features and grow across the world, making it one of the most powerful social media marketing channels out there.

It’s also taking steps to be transparent with users, which puts more pressure on marketers to be relevant and add value.

One way to do both is to know human psychology really well…

How to increase the visibility of your SaaS content in less than 10 minutes a day

The best way to increase awareness of your SaaS brand and personality?

Creating quality content.

But churning out quality content no one sees is like playing drums alone in your basement: It’s fun, but it doesn’t sell tickets.

Casey Hill has an effective method that can help you triple the number of eyes on your SaaS content in less time than it takes to cook pancakes and bacon for breakfast.

Let’s break it down…

First, make sure the content is non-promotional. Instead of being salesy, it should provide value.

Ask yourself, “Can someone implement stuff from this without having to buy something from us?” If so, then it can be safely promoted across channels.

Post it on LinkedIn, then on Reddit. There’s a myriad of SaaS-related subreddits with big, active communities. Look for the ones that are relevant to your content and start posting!

Now make a Twitter thread. Break down your entire post into 5-10 tweets for your Twitter community to see. Post from your company and your personal profile for more reach.

Don’t slack on Slack groups. Share the content in SaaS Slack communities that you’re a member of.

One channel Casey uses regularly is the Growth Strategies/B2B/Email channel in DemandCurve’s Slack.

Post it in Facebook groups, too. Unlike pages, Facebook groups have good reach and are generally active.

Communities like SaaS Marketers, SaaS founders, and similar have a nice core of people that would be genuinely interested in valuable and actionable content.

And if you have a mailing list, you can also create an email blast and send the content to your subscribers.

After all, these people willingly signed up. Make sure they see your stuff!

And you’re done! Your quality content is now distributed across a variety of channels, ready to be seen by lots of people the way it deserves.

Why reciprocity matters in marketing—and how you can use it to increase conversions

It’s 11 a.m. in the morning, skies are blue, you’re on the way to work.

A well-dressed man walks up to you on the street and hands you a pamphlet about something. He’s passionate and articulate.

You’re not really into his pitch, so you start to walk away.

As you do, the man asks you for money for the project he’s been talking about.

What do you say? Well, you’re probably going to say no.

But the man’s already done something that increases the chance you will shell out some cash:

He’s handed you a pamphlet.

That action, simple as it is, triggers a bias in humans called reciprocity.

What’s reciprocity, then? It’s a well-documented principle that when we receive a positive action, as in kind words, a physical item, or even body language like a handshake, we want to respond in kind.

How to use it in marketing: Find creative ways to deliver something positive to your customers before they make a purchase.

It doesn’t even have to be monetary. It could be free shipping, or a piece of copy, or a product image that makes customers feel good.

Whatever you do, give something to your customers before they make a purchase.

You’re more likely to inspire them to do something for you in return.

ROUNDING UP THE STACK

GOOGLE: Running Local Service Ads? Google will start sending you a weekly recap of your ad performance, plus the leads you were charged for, and how much you’ve spent on ads. Nice.

INSTAGRAM: Can’t say we’re surprised. Instagram is closing their affiliate program on August 31 and will focus on partner programs through their Creator Marketplace in the future.

E-COMMERCE: After the end of the pandemic-driven e-commerce boom, Shopify is experiencing a decrease in new subscribers. But zoom out to 2019, and the trajectory does not look that negative.

ANALYTICS: Google Analytics API update… There are new dimensions for Search Ads 360, including creative format. However, you still can’t see reports linking data from Display & Video 360 with Search Ads 360. Bummer.

FACEBOOK: The regulatory battle between Meta and the European Union is getting fiercer. And it seems Meta is considering pulling their apps from the continent completely… at least for a short time. That could be tough for European businesses…

ADVERTISING: News sells, but according to the New York Times (NYT), games and cooking products sell way more. Subscribers will start seeing ads in Wordle and other NYT products. Could be new ad channels to try…

Meta is finally going all-in on creators with a platform called Super.

Super is their new live-streaming platform purpose-built for creators — and they’re currently testing. The company says that Super “allows influencers to host livestreams, earn revenue and engage with viewers”, which, to be honest, sounds like pretty much every platform in the world outside of Excel. Still excited to see where this goes, though.

How does streaming for artists actually work?

Whole different creator, same mechanics. And how do they actually make money from it? (Makes me wonder why Spotify doesn’t have tipping or paid subscription tiers at the individual creator level…yet.) The Pudding has this great explainer.

Are you thinking about launching a new revenue product for your media business? This is the most powerful way to do it.

All the cool tech, all the new trends, and all your page views put together can’t replace the simplest and most effective way of making sure you have product-market fit before you even launch. It’s called good old user research, my friend, and it’s way simpler than you think it is. I love this back-to-basics lesson on the funnel and what a mighty tool it is to have conversations with people in your audience. Find a user problem to solve, build a cheap model of your solution, and then test your assumptions around your solution with the people whose problem it is solving. Need a quick reminder about why you need conversations with people in your audience? Because they are the people you’re building that new revenue product for. If you want their money, ask them what they think.

This is a great piece about how AI won’t replace human illustrators.

But what makes it really interesting to me is that it brings up a number of issues so relevant in your newsroom or your media organisation: it talks about how the illustration industry works, the perceived hierarchical differences between ‘art’ and ‘illustration’, and the powerful juxtaposition of illustration within your content. “Before we announce the end of illustration every time a website sells a stock image, or a software company proposes DIY illustrations, or a neural network makes cute pictures of a rabbit on bench, we should spend some time and energy creating the social, cultural, and economic conditions where artists don’t have to fear for their livelihood every time some new technological experiment happens.”

Go to Google on your phone or desktop.

Type cat. Turn your volume on. Tap or click the paw icon that comes up. Then keep tapping until you drive everybody crazy.

Lyft now driving its own ad channels

Mass advertising used to look like the TV or the radio.

Now it’s starting to look like a car…

What’s going on: Lyft just announced Lyft Media, a network that will give advertisers the ability to reach passengers and passers-by.

Like billboards on wheels: Among Lyft Media’s first ad products are smart digital screens on vehicle rooftops called “Halos.”

These screens will display targeted ads depending on the vehicle’s location and time. Lyft says you’ll be able to track ad performance through their attribution partners.

Here, there, everywhere… Other ad placements include:

  • In-car tablets that show “dynamic content” to passengers.
  • Ads on bikeshare stations.
  • Customizable brand icons and banners within the Lyft App itself.

Why we care: This is a new and potentially big shift in digital advertising. Lyft Media has the potential to target large audiences in specific times and places, which could be powerful for local businesses and brands.

It also opens a new, trackable advertising channel that could help local businesses and industry giants alike.

A rising tide lifts all… brands?

Analytics is easier, Business Profile is tougher

First the spoon, then the medicine…

Spoon: Google Data Studio is easier to navigate. You can now switch between multiple Google Analytics 4 (GA4) properties.

Subproperties and Roll-Ups are also available in GA4 360 now, which is nice.

Medicine: Business Profile is cracking down on spam. Google’s new policy update categorizes duplicate photos, videos, and logos as spam, and will reject or remove them.

Google will also remove posts containing misspellings or assets that “negatively distract the reader’s attention.”

Whatever that means.

Why we care: We agree… There are a lot of Google updates.

But staying on top of updates like these can keep your marketing stack humming and reduce friction in your day.

And by the way, speaking of friction…

How to grow your brand using zero-click content

“Wait, wait… Zero clicks? As in, no clicks? Really?”

Yes, really. Sure, clicks are valuable and measurable engagement parameters.

… But if you look around, you’ll notice a rising trend: Platforms are becoming less clickable.

Google extracts information and displays it in snippets. Instagram posts don’t let you share clickable links. Facebook and LinkedIn reward linkless posts with more reach… the list goes on.

So how do you drive traffic without clicks?

Amanda Natividad’s post offers some useful tips to help you optimize for impressions instead of clicks.

Let’s take a quick, click-free look at what she recommends…

Use the 200-word, 2-minute framework. Break down resourceful blog posts or long videos into stand-alone short posts that are native to the platform you’re using:

  • A 200-word email.
  • A 200-word Twitter post.
  • A 5-tweet thread with up to 40 words each.
  • A 2-minute YouTube video.

You know how streamers and podcasts give away their best segments for free just to grab your attention and tempt you to subscribe to their shows? This is the same thing.

… Or, summarize the main idea. Outline and tease your content by using bullet points.

Just don’t give away too much or viewers will have no incentive to stick around.

Lead with emotion. For example, opening your content with a rant is like stretching out your hand to anyone who feels the same emotions… it’s easy to grab.

… And there you have it. It’s time to make your brand a hero… from zero. If you know what we mean.

How this classic con-artist trick can help you make more sales

Imagine a con man walks up to you on the street.

He shows you three well-worn playing cards: Two are black, one’s red.

Then he crouches and lays the cards face-down on the sidewalk and shuffles them around. There’s a small crowd forming now.

Did you keep your eye on the red card? Are you confident enough to bet $1 on it?

You did, you are, and you win. The man does the same trick again. You bet $2. You win again—this is easy.

Now the man goes big: Want to bet $20? You do, because you feel good about the odds.

He shuffles the cards around again, and you guess again.

But this time, you guess wrong. Odds are, he’s used a sleight-of-hand to trick you, or he’s substituted the red card out entirely.

And now you’re out $20.

Why this matters: Con tricks like this are incredibly popular because they rely on the foot-in-the-door technique.

In other words, when you give people small wins at first, they’re more likely to go all-in.

Here’s an example of that in marketing: Klientboost saw success simply by modifying the standard email form.

Instead of asking for emails up front, they added a multiple-choice question before showing the email field.

This encouraged people to take a harmless first step and increased their chances of submitting an email address. See? Simple.

ROUNDING UP THE STACK

LINKEDIN: It’s not just for TikTok or Instagram. If you want to promote your B2B venture, you may want to hire a LinkedIn influencer. At least, that’s what more and more businesses are doing.

PRIVACY: In case you were wondering… GDPR violations are no joke. The ad tech company Criterio is one of the first to face repercussions for breaching European’s data protection laws. The fine? A whopping $65 million. Ouch.

REDDIT: Here’s a useful feedback loop. Some brands use Reddit to boost awareness, develop products, and gather customer feedback. This article shares a couple of success stories, in case you wanted to take notes.

Are ads about to become more targeted?

On Friday, Amazon announced they’ve acquired iRobot, the company that created Roomba.

And no, it’s not about robot vacuum cleaners…

… It’s all about the data: According to reports, Amazon wants to use the smart vacuum to map out users’ homes.

With this kind of “ambient intelligence” they’ll be able to map out floor plans, furniture, and possessions in order to sell users more furniture and possessions.

Why we care: Given the iRobot acquisition and recent ad developments, it seems Amazon is strategically improving and calibrating their targeting capabilities.

They recently added new advertising features like performance estimates to help advertisers predict clicks, orders, and more.

It wouldn’t surprise us if Amazon Ads targeting improved dramatically in the near future.

Pros and cons are coming to snippets

Looks like weighing trade-offs just got a little easier…

Google is now showing pros and cons of your product review page as a feature snippet on the search results page.

The good, the bad, the ugly: You can now “tell Google about the pros and cons” by supplying the structured data on your product review pages.

If you don’t volunteer that data, Google will try to identify pros and cons and add it to snippets automatically.

Which pages are eligible: At the moment, only editorial pages can have their pros and cons sections displayed in the snippet.

Why we care: Product pages with well-structured data like pros and cons will probably get a bump in visibility for particular keywords… and may convert customers a little faster.

So it’s probably a good idea to structure your product data earlier than later.

Of course, pros and cons aren’t the only way to get a bump in visibility…

This is how you create attention-grabbing hooks for your videos

The more “hooks” you use, the more customers you catch. Seems obvious, right?

Yes, but here’s the thing.

Jumping on trendy hooks like “TikTok made me buy it…” won’t get your brand very far.

So Tim Duncaan recommends a few different and easy-to-use methods for making your video hooks engaging.

Let’s go fishing…

Use nonverbal hooks. The first three seconds are crucial for grabbing attention. And while you can’t say much in three seconds, you can show an awful lot by:

  • Using an interesting background.
  • Appearing sharply in frame.
  • Experimenting with camera angles.
  • Using bright colors.
  • Making the first frame dynamic.

Each one of these instantly captures the eyes of your viewer.

Address your target audience. Remember, you’re speaking to them. Grab them with lines like:

If you ___, you need a ____.

If you enjoy ___, you should _____.

POV: you ____.

Calling out your viewers with lines like these hooks them into your video.

Use all the platform features. Say the hook in your audio, write the lines on screen, insert catchy music… Don’t be afraid to maximize the potential of the platforms you’re posting on.

Sell the ending. Use the first few seconds to sell the ending. Name the problem that your audience has and say you have a solution.

Finally, forget about three seconds. Here’s a plot twist: Imagine that the attention span of your audience lasts only a second. What happens in that first second? Make the video move so fast it’s impossible to stop watching.

… And there you go, you’re all geared up to shoot videos that will hook your prospects!

How to talk about competitors without sounding cringey

Lots of brands like to talk about their competitors.

… But few can do it without sounding bitter, jealous, or some combination of the two.

And if you throw too much shade at your competitors, it often comes off as cringe-worthy more than anything else—and customers start to get suspicious.

However… When it’s done right, comparing yourself to competitors can be a powerful tool for converting customers.

Here’s a simple trick for making competitor comparisons work: Never position your brand as the better solution in every use case, and never make your competitors sound like failures.

Instead, admit what your competitors are good at!

It sounds counter-intuitive, but it works.

  1. Instead of bashing competitors, which turns people off, give your competition credit where it’s due.
  2. Then, explain how your product is better for the specific use cases that your dream customer cares about.

Often, the high road performs better than taking cruel potshots.

It shows people you’re honest and why you’re the better choice.

And it builds a powerful brand in the minds of your customers. Who doesn’t want that?

ROUNDING UP THE STACK

TIKTOK: Did you know that 50% of TikTok users bought something after watching TikTok LIVE? This is just one of four insights TikTok shared in a recent Twitter thread. Worth a read if you’re using the platform.

GOOGLE: Uh-oh. There’s been an issue with impression share and auction insights reporting data for a few days now. Google promises it won’t affect your ads and says they’re working on it. If you’re experiencing this issue, keep checking your ad status.

BUSINESS: Selling in Europe? You might want to include Buy now, pay later (BNPL) as a payment option. BNPL apps passed 10 million installs in Europe, with Klarna being the undisputed leader.

New Discovery ad features just landed

Google just announced several new Discovery ad features with an eye toward holiday campaigns, and they seem useful.

Here’s the breakdown:

  • New ad experiences. Social and Promotion tabs in Gmail will now include details like product images and prices, making them more browsable. Also, they’ll be powered by machine learning to mix and match assets for best results.
  • Better creative support. You’ll see recommendations on what to add or remove when creating ads, plus ad and campaign ratings and optimization scores.
  • Audience insights tool. You can now view asset reports to check and compare performance. You can also see how your audience segments are performing.
  • Improved campaign management. Audience builder lets you create and reuse audiences across campaigns. You can also use Google Editor and API so you can manage your campaigns at scale.

Why we care: According to Google, 78% of users prefer to check their feeds for personalized recommendations, which is where Discovery ads come in.

And with the holidays approaching, this set of features could help you get more out of your campaigns.

DTC brands are banking on affiliate marketing

Between iOS14 changes and crumbling cookies, e-commerce brands are finding new channels to reach customers.

Turns out one of those channels is affiliate marketing.

What’s going on: According to a new report by the Performance Marketing Association, affiliate marketing spend grew to $9.1B in 2021—47% higher than previously reported three years ago.

And according to surveyed brands, two new affiliate channels are getting increasingly prominent in the DTC world:

  • Influencers: Editorial gift guides, reviews, and influencer recommendations resonate with younger generations, and sometimes account for as much as 35% of all sales.
  • Press releases: Public relation (PR) firms have started building affiliate marketing operations to work with and promote retail startups.

Why we care: If you’re looking for new ways to connect with customers, affiliate marketing could be an effective channel to work into the mix.

As always, it pays to observe what’s working for other brands and find ways to apply those lessons to your own marketing.

Want high-performing Facebook ads? Spend time optimizing your ad copy

The best performing ad copy isn’t usually the one that “feels” the best to you.

It’s the one that passes the audience test.

Daniel Hegman shares an interesting example of an effective copy split test that reveals the kind of copy that works at which stage of the buyer’s journey.

Here’s the scoop…

First, Daniel chose two different campaigns for a fashion brand as a testing base, one for advertising beauty products and the other for Valentine’s day ads.

Then, he created two copy variations for prospecting and remarketing of both campaigns:

  • Short copy consisting of only one line.
  • Long copy consisting of three lines.

All copy variations had the same tone and sentiment, the only difference being length.

Also, all ads were put into the same ad set, allowing Facebook to automatically adjust budgets depending on the performance.

Here’s what he found: While there weren’t stark winners or big changes in engagement for cold audiences, remarketing audiences definitely preferred shorter copy.

In other words, the higher the intent, the shorter the copy.

If customers already have their wallets out, your final “push” should be short and snappy.

On the contrary, colder audiences sometimes prefer a bit more education in their copy.

The takeaway? Always be optimizing. In addition to testing copy length, you should also test different words, tone, and any other hypotheses that you feel can move the needle!

How to inspire better ideas from your team

OK, so managing people is tough.

And it’s especially tough when you need great ideas, quick, and they don’t seem to be coming from anyone.

There’s one thing that almost every good manager does to solve this: When you have a live meeting or asynchronous brainstorming session with your team, never reveal your true opinion on the subject until the last possible minute.

For example:

  • You set up a meeting to brainstorm new ad ideas.
  • You get ideas from each person in the room.
  • You save any feedback for the very end.
  • Once everyone’s exhausted all their ideas, then you provide your insight.

Normally, this doesn’t happen. Many managers, creative directors, and founders feel tempted to give feedback in real-time.

Or, in other cases, they provide their opinions before anyone beneath them gets the chance to talk.

This can prevent your team members from sharing great ideas because they’re worried they’ll get criticized or shot down.

Why this tactic works: By hiding your true opinions until the end, you’re allowing your team to share their ideas fearlessly.

That helps you get every possible idea out onto the floor—getting you the most novel ideas possible.

Yes, it’s a simple tactic, but it works.

ROUNDING UP THE STACK

MARKETING: This is handy. We came across a swipe file of marketing examples from landing pages to emails. Seems like a great way to smash creative blocks and try out new marketing ideas.

SEO: Google just added more links to content guidelines. Don’t worry, they were already published a few years before. It seems Google is organizing the guides for easier access.

PODCASTS: People will throw money at you for a podcast appearance if you’re established enough… and vice-versa! If you want to build some clout, don’t wait for others to invite you. Offer to pay them for an interview instead.

GOOGLE: Here’s a useful search trick… If you put your query in quotation marks, Google’s snippet will always show the quoted words in the context they appear. They pull results from meta description tags, too, FYI. So update yours accordingly.

It’s started. Meta reportedly told its U.S. news partners that it will stop paying them for content that appears in Facebook’s News Tab.

These payments were part of the three-year deals (totalling $105 million) it struck with publishers when the company went all-in on news. Meta was also spending $90 million for news videos in its Watch tab. But hey, no one expected this news love-fest to last. In 2018, FB started favouring friends and family over publishers in the feed. The next year, it launched the News Tab — with a funding announcement with News Corp’s CEO on stage. Political posts started to go away in 2021… and here we are. Where is all this going? See next.

Meta is paying media companies to post Reels on Instagram.

This is the same program it ran for individual creators last year, and now it’s expanded to include publishers as well. The payments vary based on views and are capped each month. Some media execs say they’re getting as much as $20,000 each month. But see above for warning.

Facebook is shutting down its live shopping feature because it’s not getting enough traction.

Instead of live videos — all the rage during the pandemic — Meta is instead doubling down on Reels. QVC, as it turns out, isn’t the future of social media (at least not outside China).

Meta’s AI apparently approved ads advocating for ethnic cleansing in Kenya.

Global Witness and Foxglove say their tests have shown that Meta is incapable of detecting language around violence, including calls to rape and behead people along ethnic lines. Kenya’s national cohesion watchdog (there is such a thing) may suspend Facebook if the company doesn’t curb hate speech ahead of next month’s elections. Meta’s response: “Both machines and people make mistakes”.

Twitter donated $25,000 to the Republican Attorneys General Association, which is raising funds for the anti-abortion movement in the U.S..

RAGA is using its resources to make sure that elected attorneys general will enforce abortion bans in several states.

Indonesia lifted a ban on Yahoo and Steam after both companies complied with a government law that will force them to give up personal data on specific users.

Last week, the country blocked Yahoo and Steam, along with PayPal, Epic Games, and Origin (that means Fortnite and FIFA can’t be played) after they missed a deadline for registration. As part of this law, the platforms will also have to take action on “urgent” removal orders within four hours.

It’s hard to understand what the metaverse even is, but Indonesia has ordered the state telco to create one.

Telekom Indonesia launched metaNewsia, which is meant to help the country’s small businesses showcase their products. “Don’t let other countries create a new world with their own payment system, while the market remains in Indonesia. Then we will regret it.”

Textbook publisher Pearson may have found the best use for NFTs.

It’s using the blockchain to make money off second-hand sales of its books. “In the analogue world, a Pearson textbook was resold up to seven times, and we would only participate in the first sale.”

You’ve probably never thought about Amazon as an advertising giant.

But that company made $8.7 billion in ad sales in Q2. You can see why it works; Amazon is highly effective because it understands intent and that helps it connect your needs with what brands are offering. But it’s not clear if merchants are taking out ads because they want to — or have to.

Microsoft launches new ad formats, plus other big updates

Microsoft is flexing hard this summer.

They just rolled out several muscular updates… and they’re all worth checking out.

Let’s start with the new ad types: Microsoft announced two unique, industry-specific ad products that will roll out in the next few weeks.

  • Automotive ads will make it easy to advertise cars and other vehicles, displaying price, fuel type, mileage, and more.
  • Vertical ads pull content from dynamic data feeds and individual users’ search intent, then show relevant ads drawn from advertisers’ existing catalogs.

They also dropped new ad formats:

  • Dynamic Remarketing is expanding from retail to other industries including travel, automotive, and events.
  • Standard Universal Event Tracking (UET) lets you tag users that have engaged with a specific website product by using your existing UET tag.

You can also use UET with additional parameters to give you access to more audience lists so you can better segment and optimize your audience.

New markets just opened: Microsoft is expanding their Audience Network to 64 more global markets, including Brazil, Germany, and Australia. And more are coming this year.

That’s not all… There are also three new bidding options for Video ads, reporting experience updates, and more. It’s too much to cover here, so read Microsoft’s full update for the rest.

Oh, and if you want to create and edit ad campaigns, better start using Responsive Search Ads (RSA) by August 29.

Buy now, pay later is shifting away from consumers

Amidst tightening economies and regulations, the Buy now, pay later (BNPL) companies are struggling to stay afloat in DTC.

… So they’re looking at other businesses: BNPL startups are rising in B2B, and for good reason.

The global business payments market is worth $125T—more than double the size of the global consumer payments market.

More money, fewer problems: Plus, BNPL for businesses offers several other attractive advantages, like…

  • Higher average ticket sizes, which promise higher fees for BNPL companies.
  • More growth potential, quicker paths to profitability, and less risk.
  • More flexible payment options, including 30, 60, and 90 day payment terms.
  • A less regulated market.

Why we care: The expansion of BNPL to the B2B market could open fresh conversion opportunities for marketers in services and B2B.

Being able to offer additional payment options or split payments could help to accelerate the growth of your own brand or venture.

Definitely a trend to keep an eye on.

Want to improve your product packaging? Study your empty iPhone boxes

Lots of marketers are envious of Apple, and for good reason.

It’s not just their products. It’s their marketing, branding… and packaging.

Apple literally has a “packaging room” where a designer spends months testing hundreds of packages with different materials and shapes.

Trung Phan points out in his article that Apple delves into human psychology to deliver the unboxing experience that goes beyond cutting tape.

It’s all about impute, or, in the words of Steve Jobs, the idea that people really do judge a book by its cover.

If you deliver the best possible product in a sloppy manner, customers will perceive you as such. And vice-versa.

And then there’s the unboxing itself… Which, according to Steve Jobs, is a form of ritual: “You design a ritual of unpacking to make the product feel special. A theater.”

That’s right: Steve Jobs started unboxing before it was a YouTube phenomenon.

So with this in mind, let’s look at the three things that makes Apple’s packaging so satisfying:

1- Anticipation: Apple plays on the curiosity gap, slowly reducing the deficit of what we know vs. what we want to know.

You look at the real life iPhone picture on the box, pull its plastic off with a tab and peel back the screen protector… And then you pick up your phone and inspect it.

You’ve had an entire experience even before you turned your iPhone on!

2 – Aesthetic: Every Apple package is picturesque without being intense. It’s clean, minimalistic, and beautiful.

3 – Multi-sensory experience: Believe it or not, Apple designed their packaging with air pockets to create a “whooshing” sound when you open it.

You see the packaging, you touch the smooth box, you pull against deliberately created friction, you hear the sound as air leaves the pockets… it’s a sensation overload!

So now that you’ve got the packaging fundamentals, the question is: How can you create memorable experiences with your product design and packaging?

There’s no quick answer… but if you want to win when it comes to branding and customer retention, learning from Apple’s packaging can send you in the right direction.

How to maximize conversion on your holiday emails

Here’s a surprising statistic…

Holiday emails have lower open rates than emails during normal times of the year… but they have higher conversion rates.

Open rates are lower because every business on the block is rapid-firing sales emails faster than Steph Curry can take 3’s.

But when you do convince someone to open your email, they’re more likely to convert.

So here’s how you can stand out from the competition and maximize conversion:

  • Spend a lot of time writing subject lines. You won’t boost open rates with a subject line like “Our holiday sale starts NOW! Don’t miss out!!” but you might catch some attention with something like, “Santa’s drunk. Here’s a massive Christmas sale.”
  • Include a specific offer in your email. You can improve conversion by including specific dollar or percentage discount numbers in your email, and sometimes, in the subject line. Basically, you need to give people a good reason to visit your site. Telling them there’s a sale probably isn’t enough.
  • Include free shipping in your subject line. One study found that subject lines containing “free shipping” improved conversion rates by 3X compared to subject lines without it. Free shipping is a major lever for conversion, so this is worth testing.

ROUNDING UP THE STACK

CONTENT MARKETING: Twitter’s not entertaining newsletter plans anymore, and Facebook put Bulletin on the back burner… but newsletters aren’t going anywhere. They’re still great products in their own right. Good for contextual advertising, too. Ask us how we know.

LINKEDIN: Is the algo about to get more human? The social platform is testing a new, hand-curated discovery feed on mobile. Which makes us wonder… How do you optimize content for this kind of feed?

GOOGLE: Remember the tag that we reported about yesterday? Charles Farina walks you through how to use it in this Twitter thread. Worth a look if you’re hoping to simplify attribution a bit.

FACEBOOK: That happened fast. After two years, Facebook is pulling the plug on its live shopping feature on October 1 to focus on Reels. Can’t say we’re surprised.

Know what I meme?

An internet cultural phenomenon, it was probably no surprise marketers would start pushing meme messaging. If a major social, political, celebrity or legal event occurs, you can be sure a flood of memes will soon follow. But there is also a dark side to memes — they can easily be used to push a racist and misogynistic agenda. As always, marketers need to understand what they’re getting into when attaching a brand to a meme.

What happened to Tumblr?

Microblogging site Tumblr recently celebrated its 15th birthday. A platform for short-form and multimedia content, it was placed to be swept up in the booming creator economy. Yahoo thought so when they paid US$1 billion for the site in 2013. The hype was well and truly over by 2019 when the owners of WordPress paid US$3 million. Unable to truly understand user trends, engagement dropped from 84 millions posts a day in 2014 to 30 million in 2018.

The rebirth of Tumblr

While engagement and value is down, it doesn’t spell the death of Tumblr. Earlier this year, the site announced that 61% of its new users were Gen Z. A focus on sharing creative and cultural content within different communities could resonate with this demographic. A survey from 2019 found 60% Tumblr users were there for entertainment. Community and entertainment might not be flashy but it resonates with the highly sought-after Gen Z.

Leading Tumblr usage reasons according to users in the United States as of 3rd quarter 2019

Meta back down

If you want social platforms to listen to your UX complaints, get a Kardashian/Jenner on your side. Instagram has rolled back the full screen video and recommended posts functions after widespread pushback from users and global influencers. In other changes around Meta (Instagram and Facebook’s parent company), it’s been announced that they will no longer pay news publishers for articles appearing on Facebook’s News Tab. Reportedly, Facebook plans to focus on short form video instead. Sound familiar?

Interesting Marketing Video and Report

Short and tight title sequence — retro animation and live sports.

The right animation can even make warfare light hearted.

Live action and CGI stitched together to make you depressed about your work-life balance.

During down cycles, play the long game

Planning your marketing strategy amidst global economic uncertainty can feel scarier than jumping onto a trampoline from your rooftop.

But it’s not all hand-wringing…

You just need the right mix: According to the “Rules of Recession-Proofing” report,

  • Contextual advertising is king. It’s 1.2 to 2.5 times more effective than other forms of advertising, including behavioral targeting.
  • Brands that don’t spend lose market share… up to 15% of it, to be exact. All it takes is for a similarly-sized competitor to double their ad spend right when you’re cutting yours.

Planning your marketing strategy amidst global economic uncertainty can feel scarier than jumping onto a trampoline from your rooftop.

Why we care: During uncertain economic times, it’s essential to study what has worked over time so you can invest your marketing dollars accordingly.

And based on this report’s analysis of billions of dollars in ad spend, a combination of brand-building and contextual advertising appears to be a resilient mix.

Speaking of contextual advertising…

Interest-based ad testing, plus two features that could simplify marketers’ lives

Google may have paused the cookie-less future until 2024…

But they’re dipping their toes into contextual advertising in the meantime.

What’s going on: The company announced they plan to test interest-based ad solution FLEDGE, a tool in their Privacy Sandbox, for a small percentage of users on August 28.

Very interesting: As users visit different websites, Google will add browsers to “interest groups” depending on the website content, which it will later use to show users relevant ads.

Google claims FLEDGE relies on APIs and interest groups to track user behavior without compromising privacy.

… They’re also trying to simplify: Google is introducing two features that could make advertisers’ lives easier.

  • Tag, you’re it: Even with the centralized Google Tag Manager, tagging is still a pain. So Google is rolling out a single reusable tag that uses your existing gtag.js implementations and can be installed on all your web pages.
  • Getting organized: Pages, items, and issue classifications are getting a new report in Search Console that should make it easier to prioritize and fix issues that affect your website’s visibility.

Why we care: Attribution is difficult, and marketers are under a lot of pressure to show ROI. Google’s new tag sounds like it could help.

And if you’ve been reading our newsletter for a while, you know we’re all about contextual advertising.

Google’s FLEDGE test sounds like a step in the right direction for marketers and customers alike. It will be interesting to learn how it goes.

Interest-based ad testing, plus two features that could simplify marketers’ lives

10 copywriting hacks for high-converting copy

You don’t have to be J.K. Rowling to write copy that engages readers and motivates them to buy…

You just need to know a few effective techniques.

Chase Dimond recently published a thread of 10 powerful hacks that can take your copy to the next level.

Let’s get hacking…

  1. Compare: If you’re different from or better than your competitor, don’t be afraid to say it. Show customers you’re cheaper, faster, etc.
  2. Reframe the pricing: Numbers can be abstract. Bring your prices down to earth by comparing them with something else. “Less than three lattes a month” sounds cheaper and more appetizing than $9/month.
  3. Add visuals: Plain text = boring. Add images, infographics, bold words, etc. to make your copy more engaging.
  4. Ask for effective testimonials: The best testimonials use the same pattern: before > transformation > after. Ask your customers to follow this pattern and then use their words in your copy.
  5. Raw data wins: Raw numbers are more believable than rounded numbers. If 79% of customers think your product is the best, say so. Don’t round up to 80%.
  6. Your customers are your salespeople: When describing the benefits of your product, back them up with testimonials. People will always trust other people more than you.
  7. Use repetition: Done right, repetition makes copy memorable and effective. Don’t feel bad about repeating yourself.
  8. Handle objections in the call-to-action (CTA): You can boost engagement by using your CTA to answer objections. Objection: “Will this trial cost me money?” CTA: “Try it free—no credit card.” Done!
  9. Don’t sell, entertain: The more you write to sell, the less effective your copy will be. Joke around, tell compelling stories, add some personality to the brand voice.
  10. Profit from your competitor’s flaws: Check your competitor’s product pages for 3-star reviews, and turn their biggest complaints into your selling points. Voila!

Powerful stuff, right? Try working these tips into your copy. You might be surprised by the results.

Struggling to get customers? Try launching a product testers’ program

Acquiring customers is always a challenge… and with so many people cutting back on their spending, it’s getting harder.

If you’re having difficulty getting people to convert for an e-commerce or SaaS product, try this tactic:

  • Create a special program for your target customers. If your audience is marketers, this could be something like an “Exclusive Marketers’ Program.”
  • Send those people to a specific landing page advertising a discount on your product. For best results, use a firm number, like $100 store credit, instead of a percentage discount number. It’s normally viewed as higher-value.
  • Ask those people to enter the email to receive their code. Now you’ve got interested customers in your system.
  • Send those customers an email sequence of three or four emails with their gift card code and calls-to-action (CTAs) for purchase. If someone’s already entered their email, they’re moderately interested in your product. You just need to give them that final push.

For best results, add scarcity to your special program. Tell people there are only, say, 100 slots.

This helps them feel like they’re part of an in-group and can boost conversions.

Why this works: People don’t like paying full-price.

And while sitewide discounts are nice, they’re even more attractive if they’re part of a special program that speaks to one particular segment of your customers.

Add a dash of exclusivity, give people a discount in the form of a store gift card, and watch that conversion rate rise.

ROUNDING UP THE STACK

E-COMMERCE: Big spenders. Turns out Pinterest users outspend non-users twice every month… and have 85% larger basket sizes. Good to know if you’re taking advantage of the platform’s e-commerce powers.

INFLUENCER MARKETING: Surprise, surprise. TikTok is poised to overtake Facebook and YouTube in influencer marketing spend by 2024. Meanwhile, investments in small or “nano” influencers, who are cheaper and generally have higher engagement rates, are supposed to rise by 220.5%.

SNAP: Filters, filters everywhere. Snap is rolling out filters for brands, which are basically Snapchat Ads… but with filters. Could be a useful way to stand out in users’ feeds.

AMAZON: International markets are hot… literally. Take Egypt, for example. The number of online Amazon shoppers in Egypt is projected to hit 73 million by 2025. That may be good news if you’re shipping worldwide.

GOOGLE: The recent Quality Raters guidelines may come with less documentation, but they bring a lot of changes… and some of those changes are pretty big. This article walks you through each one and what it means.

META:… Really, really wants to help marketers use their platform. The company just launched an Advertiser Success Center, which comes with guides, examples, and case studies to help you create better ads.

INSTA-TOK

Instagram has no intention of ever making Instagram Instagram again. It might sound like Instagram did a big ‘Okay FIIIIINE be like that 🙄’ by rolling back its big, scary proposed changes. So for the moment, there will be no more full-screen pics or videos, and fewer recommended posts because apparently nobody likes those.

But in this Casey Newton interview with Insta-boss Adam Mosseri, it sounds more and more like Insta is doing more than pivoting to video — they’re pivoting to TikTok.

But they still have to figure out how to stop the world’s most downloaded app (I might be the only person in the world without it) from eating all their lunch. In the interview, a clear-headed Mosseri sounds resolute about where he’s seeing user frustration – and where the often contradictory user data + threat of TikTok will take his plans for Instagram.

He broke down four types of user frustration around the whole thing. Sounds like Insta users are saying

  • I’m frustrated about you trying to be like TikTok…even though I love TikTok more than I love you. Most Instagram users “really dislike” the idea of changing the interface to immersive full-screen photos and videos
  • I’m frustrated that you’re showing me more video than photos…even though you say I watch more videos than photos. Instagram’s own data confirms that there is “consistent growth of video on Instagram relative to photos”, but that is “frustrating for people who are much more comfortable creating or consuming photos”
  • I’m frustrated with your recommended posts from people I don’t follow. “When you discover something in your feed that you didn’t follow before, there should be a high bar… You should be delighted to see it. And I don’t think that’s happening enough right now.”
  • I’m frustrated with the amount of reach I’m getting. “And they will guess that this thing is causing this problem. And sometimes it is; usually it isn’t. And that’s its own set of challenges.”
    Now let’s look at the things Mosseri wants to do going forward:
  • More small creators “I really want to do much better by small creators than we have historically.” Creators need
    • help finding an audience
    • stability
    • distribution
    • predictability in their income
    • a safe space “They need to be able to feel like they can express themselves comfortably.”
  • More public, recommended feed; less personal friends and family feed Mosseri points out that the Insta feed has shifted over time because “how people share with friends has changed”.
    • Friends now share on stories, DMs, and group chats.
    • Therefore the feed will become more public, more creator-led.
    • “Feed could be, and to some degree is, a place to discover things to talk about with your friends.”
  • More video There’s no getting away from it: video on Instagram is inevitable. Mosseri points out that the growth of video
    • predates TikTok
    • happens “when the cost of data goes down and the speed of your connection goes up, video goes up”
    • is happening as “[p]eople are sharing more video over time”
    • “people are interacting more with video relative to photos more and more over time”

Finally: “Swimming against that trend, I think, is going to be really bad for Instagram long term. We could just not enable videos. We could not try to make our video offering as good as our photo offering, or as good as the competition’s video offering. But I think that would be a mistake.”

Now change my mind — tell me Insta is ever going to be Insta again.

Then again, how many Pivots to Video will it take to realise that maybe it’s time to pivot away from the Pivot to Video? This is a fascinating and intricately-argued alternative take that quotes case studies over the years, including this one from Nieman Lab in 2018: “There is no evidence consumers want more video, and video production is expensive, logistically difficult, and hard to scale”. But where does TikTok’s short-form video success come from, then? “It is a video only platform and it is designed to give users as few choices as possible. Also… it doesn’t do preroll, midroll or postroll. It’s not anything close to the advertising and biz model most video has.” Good point — there clearly isn’t only one way to video.

Then there’s BeReal, the anti-Instagram. Are you on it yet? My 18-year-old friend Uma got me on to it a couple of months ago. It forces you to post a picture of your immediate surroundings at least once a day — with a simultaneous selfie. It’s fascinating and also a bit daunting. BeReal is easy to love: its confessional immediacy makes it disarming. Its charm lies in the fact that it is so much more instant than Insta, and yet it’s so very not Instagram. “BeReal won’t make you famous”, say the creators. There is no posey made-up glam — unless you create it live in the moment. You can’t upload to it. There are no filters. The banality of bad lighting and silly mugging for the camera make it exactly what Insta used to be — friends and family. (Except that the only reason I stopped using it is because I started seeing notifications about my friends’ friends commenting and liking my friends’ pics. I preferred that, as networks go, it was private, not public.) On the other hand, “[i]t’s currently No. 1 among free apps in Apple’s U.S. App Store, [and] BeReal has been installed more than 20 million times”. All it needs now is a Kardashian to create a ‘Make Instagram for people who don’t like Instagram again’ movement. Thanks for the link, François.

IN NON-INSTA, NON-TOK MEDIA PRODUCTS THIS WEEK

Brickit just disrupted Lego. How do you usually Lego? Arguably, you spend 80% of your time looking for pieces and 20% actually building. This app now lets you spread out all your pieces, take a picture of the whole mess, and it will then “come up with hundreds of ideas of what can be built with them and show you the exact location of each piece you’ll need.” Good grief, how annoying.

Every single thing on the internet can be commoditised. Including prompts for AI-generated images. So if you don’t have the imagination or bandwidth to come up with strings of text to prompt DALL-E to generate your weird generative art, well, you can now pay someone to do it for you. Users on a new marketplace built by a startup called PromptBase sell outlandish and oddly specific word prompts and text strings for US$1.99. PromptBase takes a 20% cut. (ICYMI, DALL-E is an AI system that creates realistic art and images from a text description in natural language.) I finally got my DALL-E access last week, and it’s…interesting. Send me your bizarre text prompts by replying to this email and I’ll do the weirdest one. (Tell me if you want it to be anonymous.)

Language is one of the greatest tools we design media with. It’s even greater when it’s inclusive. Language, Please is “a free, living resource for journalists and storytellers seeking to thoughtfully cover evolving social, cultural, and identity-related topics” built by Vox Media with GNI funding. This is a style guide, an inclusivity reader directory, an editorial tool repo, and it has gorgeous design and visual clarity. Thanks to Niki, who posted this in Planet Splice.

“Social Media in 2022, explained” – Trung Phan

What digital tools are brands investing in most?

It’s easy to look at e-commerce and see only lay-offs and cutbacks.

But brands aren’t just cutting spending. They’re also optimizing it…

According to Modern Retail Research, e-commerce brands are dropping cash on two technologies in particular: third-party marketplaces and AI personalization.

  • More than 37% of the brands surveyed introduced a third-party marketplace to their online store last year.
  • Over 36% offer AI recommendations on their website. Nearly half introduced it less than a year ago.
  • Virtual try-ons, live in-store inventory, and resale have also been popular roll-outs.

Why third-party marketplaces? These let you sell products from other brands through your website, without having to develop or ship those products.

Instead, a third-party provides the technology so other brands can fulfill orders through your website, and vice-versa.

Warming up to AI: Brands are using “You may also like…” sections and similar recommendations to predict user behavior.

With algorithms getting smarter, it’s not strange to bank on machine learning as a way to drive more sales and improve customer experience.

Why we care: If you’re in e-commerce, this research can give you a sense of what your competition is prioritizing… and maybe what they’re missing.

It also shows that some brands are following in the footsteps of big platforms. For example, Pinterest invested big in recommendation platform The Yes just a few months ago.

Oh, and speaking of Pinterest…

Real-time analytics now available for Pins

As if you needed another reason to constantly check your phone…

Pinterest just launched real-time Pin analytics, and the feature looks super useful.

Show me the inspo: Now you can see the latest Pinner activity and check out hourly performance in the “last 24 hours review.”

There are limits, though. Real-time data doesn’t extend to audience metrics like “Monthly total engaged audience,” or to age and gender filters.

Why we care: Knowing exactly how your pins perform on the go is a useful tool, especially with holidays coming up.

Just make sure you don’t react too quickly to the real-time changes. It takes time for Pinterest’s algorithm to optimize your pins!

4 tactics to help you cut Facebook app advertising costs

Promoting a new app on Facebook can be tricky.

You’ve got competition, high costs, and privacy updates. Ugh.

But with the right mix of tactics, you can still run profitable app campaigns. Madalyn McConnel’s article offers a handful of useful tips for increasing your performance:

1 – Turn on iOS 14+. Facebook needs 50 conversions per week, per ad set to optimize ads for best results—not easy if your customers are Apple users who have opted out of tracking.

Enabling the iOS 14+ campaign feature helps you reach everyone on iOS 14 and higher.

Yes, that’s a wide net… but it can reduce your cost per install (CPI) in the long run, which is nice.

2 – Use open targeting. Speaking of wide nets… You can go even broader with open targeting, meaning you only target country and age, and leave the rest blank.

Facebook will use machine learning to identify users that are likely to convert and deliver ads to their feed. This can also help cut your ad costs.

3 – Use dynamic product ads (DPA). App install campaigns work pretty well with DPAs—or catalog ads—if you can set them up.

This ad format pulls items from your product catalog feed and displays them like carousel ads.

There’s an option to “hack” this by listing education programs, travel listings, or real estate listings to drive more engagement.

4 – Trust the automation. It sounds scary, but the best thing you can do is let Facebook’s algorithm work together with automation. Make sure you enable these features:

  • Campaign budget automation (CBO). This will push more of your budget to ad sets that are seeing the best results, which drives down your CPI.
  • Automatic placements. Similar to CBO, enabling automatic placements favors placements that are getting the best results.
  • Advantage+ App Campaigns (AAC). This mixes the best ad copy, creative, and audiences. However, with AAC, you’ll have to relinquish control of audience targeting and give it to Facebook.

What to do when the customer is wrong

If there’s one thing every marketer knows, it’s that the customer is not always right.

Sometimes, the customer can be very wrong… Whether it’s getting physical over spicy chicken nuggets or misunderstanding your product’s purpose.

So… what should you do when the customer gets it wrong? Here’s a short insight about how we deal with this in our newsletter:

At Stacked Marketer, our main source of revenue is newsletter sponsorships.

And as a rule, we write the sponsor copy that appears in our newsletter. It consistently performs better than sponsor-written copy because… well, we’re the ones who also write the rest of the newsletter.

Makes sense, right?

But sometimes, sponsors don’t like our copy, and they come back with copy edits that we believe can hurt their ad’s performance in our newsletter.

In these cases, we share candid feedback about why we think their edits might decrease the ad’s success.

But in the end, the sponsor decides the final draft. It’s not helpful to get in a war with a sponsor over this kind of thing.

While we give feedback, we don’t force them to go one way or another. So far, this has worked well for us.

Insight: When you think your customer is wrong, consider the practical benefit of calling them out.

What do you have to gain by being aggressive or forceful?

Try the gentle route before you do anything serious. It’s not worth risking your reputation in the long-term.

ROUNDING UP THE STACK

MARKETING: If an investment sounds too good to be true, it probably is. The Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) announced tough new rules for anyone marketing high-risk investments. And if you’re wondering whether the rules apply to crypto products… They don’t. Yet.

ANALYTICS: Good news. You can now create and edit audiences using Google Analytics 4 (GA4) admin API, which means less fuss if you have to migrate a bunch of Universal Analytics audiences. It also comes with audience triggers, too. Nice.

MARKETING: You know what you should definitely avoid as a marketer? Buying fake reviews. This article tells consumers how to spot them… and as a bonus, it’s basically a list of what marketers should not do when gathering social proof.

GOOGLE: Not seeing the validate fix feature in Search Console? That’s because Google temporarily disabled the option while they were making updates. Looks like it should be back in a couple of days…

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