What shoppers really want from personalized marketing

There’s a fine line between incredibly helpful (yes, it is time to reorder contact lenses) and infuriating (are you really trying to sell me a second bread knife?) in digital marketing. To illuminate the boundary, we asked 60 shoppers to keep mobile diaries of their interactions with various brands.

The 2,000 diary entries provide a customer-eye view of a world awash with geolocation, ad retargeting, loyalty points, and personalized messages. One key message to marketers: not everyone has the same appreciation or tolerance for your offers. “Attitudinal segmentation” is a step that many marketers miss.

What shoppers really want from personalized shopping

The Smartphone as Security Blanket: What It Means for Marketers

“In another stream of work, I’m going to continue to focus on the relationship between smartphone use and user-generated content. This time, I’ll be looking at not just how our phones influence the generation of content but also the consumption of online content. In one project with [Wharton marketing professor] Bob Meyer, we’re looking at how using our phones actually changes our preferences for online content on Twitter, for example.” (Wharton marketing professor Shiri Melumad)


BuzzFeed is testing a Stories-like module in its mobile app

BuzzFeed, which built a massive audience by distributing to others’ platforms, is testing a Snapchat-like format in its mobile app.

Over the past couple weeks, BuzzFeed has been showing a daily digest of content, similar to the Stories format popularized by Snapchat and Instagram, in its mobile app.

The BuzzFeed Stories digest, which appears at 10 a.m. for just 6 percent of the app’s audience, features repackaged GIFs, still images and animations that drive readers to BuzzFeed’s quizzes, listicles, videos and news articles. Teams inside BuzzFeed, including its news and shows divisions, are working on original content for the BuzzFeed Stories format, as the platform-powered publisher puts more attention on its own properties.

“We’ve really leaned into distribution over the years,” said Andrew Paulus, a senior product manager at BuzzFeed responsible for the Stories feature. “But we want the app to be the best place for users to consume the best content.”

While several publishers have had trouble growing sizable app audiences, BuzzFeed has averaged over 500,000 downloads per month across the Apple App Store and Google Play and has an estimated monthly active user base of 2 million people, according to Apptopia. It has had an average rank of No. 10 in Apple’s App Store over the past year, per Apptopia.

Two editorial staffers from the publisher’s curation team are testing which kinds of content work best, while others are trying different placements for the module. The Stories digests will also remain ad-free until BuzzFeed is satisfied with them, Paulus said. Reaching that point would help find a more suitable place for the full-screen video ads BuzzFeed added to its app recently, which have displeased some longtime users.

Other publishers have mimicked Snapchat’s vertical content style, like Mashable, which took cues from Snapchat with a recent app redesign. More than 110 publishers now sell vertical video ad inventory on their owned-and-operated properties, according to MediaRadar.

One outcome of the tests was that people preferred consuming BuzzFeed content in a Stories format, compared to the app’s current layout, which offers tabs for brands like Shows, Tasty and BuzzFeed News. By testing a new feature, it’s possible that Paulus and his colleagues stumbled onto a new look for the app.

“If that’s something that happens, it’s a good thing we started on it now,” Paulus said.

The post BuzzFeed is testing a Stories-like module in its mobile app appeared first on Digiday.

How The Los Angeles Times used hit podcast ‘Dirty John’ to drive newsletter sign-ups

It turns out hit podcasts can help drive newsletter sign-ups. The Los Angeles Times used interest in “Dirty John,” a podcast and editorial series that the Tronc-owned title produced in partnership with Wondery, to get an additional 21,000 email subscribers to Essential California, a newsletter that had grown slowly since it launched at the beginning of 2017.

While the podcast hasn’t yet accounted for a noticeable surge in paid subscriptions to the Times, its marketing and audience-acquisition operation used a simple offer — subscribe to the newsletter to find out when new episodes of the show are posted — to grow sign-ups.

“It was kind of marketing 101,” said Mark Campbell, Tronc svp of digital acquisition. “I’ll take opportunities like these all day.”

While many people think of “Dirty John,” a story of a grifter who meets a victim in Southern California, as a podcast principally, it had a written component, too, with a series of pieces that ran in the print and digital editions of the Times.

Two weeks prior to the series’ debut at the beginning of October, the Times ran teasers for the series across its print issues, along with digital house ads, telling readers they should download the Essential California newsletter to find out when new episodes of the show would be available. Anybody that visited “Dirty John’s” written components on the Times’ site also got a Bounce Exchange notification calling for people to sign up for the newsletter.

The campaign generated over 21,000 new sign-ups, more than five times the total that the newsletter had attracted since the beginning of 2017 when it launched. The podcast itself was also a big success — its episodes have been downloaded over 5 million times in less than a month.

At the start of every episode, the show’s host, Christopher Goffard, read an ad offering readers the chance to sign up for a subscription to the Times, too. That didn’t drive many immediate subscriptions, with Campbell calling the overall subscriptions during that period “fairly average.” But Campbell is confident there will be chances to convert them later; email, Campbell said, is a top-three subscription channel for Tronc, which reported 220,000 digital subscriptions across its titles in its most recent earnings report.

The post How The Los Angeles Times used hit podcast ‘Dirty John’ to drive newsletter sign-ups appeared first on Digiday.

These email notifications build engagement, conversion and trust

Presented by SparkPost

As a user of modern applications and services, you’ve almost certainly interacted with a variety of email notifications. These messages alert you when your post was shared on a social network, remind you to take a key step in activating your account for a productivity tool, or ask you to approve a scheduled bill payment from your bank.

Email notifications like these draw users back into apps and reinforce trust in services. They’re an important part of a great user experience and one of the most powerful tools product management teams have to drive conversion, retention, and growth.

As VP of Product at SparkPost, an email delivery service for product emails, I’ve had the privilege of working with best-in-class companies such as Pinterest, Intercom, HubSpot, and LinkedIn. They use email notifications to build user engagement and drive business metrics like conversion and retention. These emails offer great lessons for teams building both B2C and B2B products. Here are some essential ways they can drive conversion, increase retention, and further growth for both apps and services.

Common use cases for email notifications

Although examples of email notifications are as varied as the apps and cloud services that send them, many uses cases apply to nearly any service.

Security and account changes: Providing updates direct to the user when their account information and login details might be at risk is a trusted and strategic way of using email notifications.

Consider this email notification sent by LinkedIn when a new email address is added to an account.

It is direct, factual, and provides clear action steps when required. It employs both detailed information and cues such as a security-specific return address to reinforce trust — an essential quality for services like this.

Information that prompts user action: Well-targeted notifications to complete onboarding or to take other specific actions are key to increasing metrics such as activation and conversion rates.

Pinterest sends a series of emails to help new users get started using the product, including the following:

It’s effective in two ways. Most directly, it prompts a new user to take an action that’s key to becoming an engaged user of the service. But it also uses design and messaging elements that broadly reinforce qualities users value about Pinterest: a personal voice, striking photography, and what they “love to do.”

Here’s an email notification from LinkedIn to add a new connection to a user’s network of contacts.

This notification works because it prompts an action tied to the service’s core benefit, professional networking. Qualities like personalization and a direct subject line make it more likely to be opened.

Information and status updates: Notices about activity that happened on a site while the user was away reminds him or her of a service’s value and can drive re-engagement — or even conversion for additional services.

Notifications like these often psychologically reward a user for their use of the product. This notice from Pinterest about a user’s content getting shared is a good example. It provides multiple opportunities for engagement by highlighting the item that was shared as well as providing additional content for the user to explore.

LinkedIn uses a similar sort of notification to drive engagement when a user’s profile was viewed.

This example takes advantage of a user’s natural tendency to want to learn more in order to motivate conversion on a premium service offering that shows more detail about who viewed her or his profile.

Designing an effective notifications strategy

These effective examples reveal several best practices that other apps and services can leverage in order to benefit from email notifications. If you haven’t begun thinking about email notifications as a core aspect of your app, now’s the time. Here are some questions a product team should ask to get started.

  • What specific user actions in your app increase conversions (or decrease churn)? These areas are where notifications prompting action will give product teams the most leverage.
  • What kinds of data increase the value your users perceive (or even bring them joy)? Notifications of this sort are a natural way to increase engagement and frequency of use, and drive conversion and upsell.
  • What information reinforces users’ trust and confidence in your service? Account and security alerts are essential notifications that every service needs.

Why email notifications overachieve

Email is accessible on every piece of technology that we own. From phones to computers, voice recognition devices to smart watches, email is there. Email has permanency, with many of us keeping important receipts, confirmation messages, and notifications that we may want to refer back to in our inboxes. As a result, email conveys a level of legitimacy that is crucial when reinforcing confidence and trust.

The immediacy and relevance of notifications help these messages stand out from the rest of the inbox. At the same time, email’s performance, searchability, and permanence characteristics can make it more effective and reliable than a push notification, particularly when updating customers of important changes to things like account information.

Email notifications offer high-value functionality: delivering information that users need in order to take action or to reinforce the value and trust they see in a service. As best-in-class businesses like Pinterest, Intercom, HubSpot, and LinkedIn have shown, they’re also a key tool for driving conversion, retention, and growth.

Learn how Pinterest, Intercom, HubSpot, LinkedIn, and thousands of other companies, big and small, use SparkPost to deliver product emails on time and to the inbox.

Amie Durr is VP of Product at SparkPost.

Sponsored posts are content produced by a company that is either paying for the post or has a business relationship with VentureBeat, and they’re always clearly marked. Content produced by our editorial team is never influenced by advertisers or sponsors in any way. For more information, contact sales@venturebeat.com.

War on words: Emoji search is spreading

Ever since the poop emoji went viral, brands have experimented with ways to use the expressive icons to connect with consumers.

But custom keyboards and hashtags aren’t enough. One way that is becoming more popular is emoji search. Instead of typing keywords into a search bar (boring!), a user can simply insert an emoji to find what they are looking for.

On Yelp, a user can type in an emoji of a pig and receive a list of related restaurants that serve pork. On General Electric’s “Emoji Table of Experiments,” users click on emojis and educational videos about science pop up. And, as of last week, if travelers want to search for destinations with travel-planning site Kayak, all they have to do is choose from several corresponding emojis. But why would these brands invest in something that seems so trivial?

It’s “because spelling things is so 2015,” according to Kayak’s site. But the real reasons are more strategic. David Solomito, vp of North America marketing for Kayak, said the brand noticed an increased usage of emojis online and, most importantly, an increase in usage relating to travel. “Not only were travelers using the plane emoji,” he said, “but using a lot of others to indicate the location or type of trip they were going on.” Kayak examined a MojiLaLa study that found 86 percent of smartphone users in the U.S. regularly use emojis, and that number jumps to 96 percent among those 18 to 34.

Solomito said the brand’s goal with the new feature is to reach these consumers. “Emojis are ingrained in our communications these days,” he said, “and I don’t see any signs of that slowing down. It just made sense to begin to allow travelers to use them when they search on Kayak.”

Yelp, on the other hand, introduced emoji search in December 2014 to add an element of fun to what consumers were already searching for. “Emoji search on Yelp was originally developed by a couple of Yelp engineers during our last hackathon, and we enjoyed it so much we wanted to share the fun with Yelpers,” said a Yelp spokesperson. “It’s fantastic to see people not only finding Yelp incredibly useful, but also having a delightful experience when searching for local businesses.”

Ad agencies believe it’s likely more brands will begin to experiment with emoji search. VML is one agency that is advising its clients to do so, mostly because they could take advantage of organic search on social platforms. Twitter, Instagram, Google, YouTube and, as of last week, WhatsApp, have all added the capability to search using emojis in the past two years. A consumer can be redirected to a brand’s website after searching with its custom emoji, for instance. “Some brands who can envision themselves in a future where emojis can realistically get users to relevant search results from Google or Bing may want to get ahead of the trend,” said Heather Physioc, director of organic search at VML.

“The future belongs to the marketers who understand the need for creating responsive and adaptive cross-channel experiences,” said Marissa Aydlett, vp of marketing at mobile marketing company Appboy.

However, implementing emoji search into a brand campaign or website comes with its own downsides. User intent is the biggest obstacle, said Physioc. “If I search for the dog emoji, should the search engine interpret that I’m looking for pet stores, dog food, dog trainers, dog boarders, veterinarians?” she said. “It’s hard for a search engine to interpret a single emoji and deliver relevant results consistently.”

Still, Physioc believes the technology is evolving rapidly, and search results from emojis will soon become more refined. A user might even be able to search with more than one emoji at the same time, she said. For example, Google might soon be able to understand that when a user types in the hamburger and French fries emojis, they’re looking for a fast-food restaurant.

Kayak has its own workaround for that issue, aligning each emoji to a specific destination. The Statue of Liberty emoji will always bring up New York, and the three-leaf clover will give a user information on Dublin every time. But the brand is also allowing its users to vote on the destinations that correspond to other emojis and will reveal the winners on World Emoji Day (July 17). So far, the voting is working for Kayak as another form of engagement. “Within a few days, we had more than 100,000 votes for emoji and city combinations,” said Solomito, “so it’s safe to say that people like where we are headed.”

“Now that traditional search engines like Google, Bing and YouTube are using emoji search, and brands like Kayak have proved how it’s possible for brands,” said Physioc, “we will see more brands trying to make emoji search work for them on their sites.”

The post War on words: Emoji search is spreading appeared first on Digiday.

Email Newsletters Are Experiencing a Renaissance

Email Newsletters Are Experiencing a Renaissance

Forget VR goggles and chatbots. These days, the rising star of audience engagement is an unlikely candidate: the humble e-newsletter.

Despite the competition from apps and social platforms, email newsletters are experiencing a bona fide revival. Publishers including the New York Times and the Washington Post have doubled down on e-newsletters, hoping that curated content delivered to your inbox will help attract a content-hungry audience. Celebrity influencers like Lena Dunham are using the medium to reach like-minded followers. And brands, too—from large B2B companies to small businesses—are re-imagining the e-newsletter and exploring its content strategy possibilities.

Their efforts seem to be paying off. Publishers are noting big jumps in email subscriptions. Meanwhile, audiences are proving their devotion to the format, and many newsletters earn high open rates.

Given the myriad digital communication tools we have at our disposal, it’s ironic that an old standby like email still packs a powerful punch. Of course, people still use social media platforms and apps to explore content. But email offers something unique—an intimate vehicle for sharing in-depth news, stories, and personal viewpoints. For readers who want great stories but don’t want to peruse the entire web to find them, e-newsletters are the antidote.

The Curious Revival of E-Newsletters

Email is nothing new; we’ve been using it for decades now. So why are publishers and other organizations pivoting back to the newsletter format?

Several factors help explain this e-newsletter renaissance, but it mostly boils down to content overload. These days, we have an infinite amount of information at our fingertips, but we’re also experiencing new challenges in parsing that information. Sheer quantity is one issue. We need help finding the most relevant, quality content, and Facebook’s algorithm only helps so much. The rise of fake news and clickbait content is another problem, because it’s becoming harder to discern credible content sources.

We want to be informed, inspired, or emotionally moved—but with so much bad content out there, we don’t know what content we can trust, nor do we have time to wade through it all.

Today’s reconceptualized newsletters help solve these problems, turning down the fire hose of information to a trickle of great content. Subscribers actively choose from which outlets the want to receive information—whether publishers, brands, or influencers. In return, they expect to receive quality content from a source they trust, in a format that’s better for slower consumption—the type of content you can get absorbed in, rather than scroll by in a flash.

And because the content is delivered via newsletter rather than social, content creators have more flexibility. Writers can experiment and take risks with quirky subjects or unique writing styles. Basically, the things that wouldn’t work that well on social can work smashingly well in a newsletter format.

Consider, for example, Disturbances, an email newsletter about dust. (Really, dust!) Through his newsletter, British culture geographer Jay Owens tackles the “science, history, and culture of dust,” in a way that’s “quirky, erudite, and totally spellbinding,” according to Wired’s Clive Thompson.

For Thompson, Disturbances and other highly original newsletters are the next evolution of the blog. Now, instead of blogging, writers and content creators can deliver long-form personal expression directly to your inbox. Instead of selling or begging for clicks, these newsletters aim to educate, to intrigue.

email newsletters content strategy - Disturbances

“After blogs, Twitter, Medium, and Facebook, the inbox has become the new site of readerly seriousness: How weird is that?” Thompson said.

The New Newsletter

Top publishers offer great examples of how e-newsletters can be adapted for content-hungry audiences. Publishers including the New York Times and the Washington Post have revved up their email newsletter efforts recently. New York Times email subscriptions have jumped to 13 million, more than double the number of subscriptions from three years ago, Digiday reports. The New York Times now offers over 50 newsletters regularly on a variety of news and lifestyle topics, up from 33 a few years ago.

Interest in politics following President Donald Trump’s election has played a role in this resurgence, but it doesn’t tell the whole story. The New York Times, as well as other publishers, have leaned into e-newsletters in recent years, hoping to pull their content (and readers) from competing platforms, such as Google and Facebook, Digiday notes. The New York Times experiment has yielded interesting new newsletters, such as Vietnam ’67, a limited-run newsletter that examines the war in Southeast Asia through the course of a single year.

Similarly, the Washington Post boasts over 70 e-newsletters and is experimenting with new content angles. The Lily, a new distributed media brand aimed at millennial women, incorporates a strong emphasis on design, Digiday reports. Content is shared two times a week via an email newsletter and repackaged for Medium, Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter. Each piece of content produced (about ten content items per day) gets a custom, platform-specific illustration. Through top-shelf visuals, Lily hopes to capture audiences via email and on social platforms.

Lily News instagram e-newsletter marketing

Email newsletters with a celebrity influencer also attract an audience. Actress Lena Dunham’s feminist-minded e-newsletter, Lenny Letter, strikes a balance between informative articles and personal stories from Dunham herself. The mix has paid off—Lenny Letter scores 500,000 subscriptions (almost all of them women) and a 70 percent open rate, Digiday reports.

Lenny Letter e-newsletter marketing

Brand newsletters can also use the power of personality to stand out from the crowd. The e-newsletter from the Park restaurant in Echo Park, California, engages the reader in a conversation with chef-owner Joshua Siegel, who brings the reader behind the scenes with his musings on restaurant life, as LA Weekly reports. The newsletter does include information about upcoming restaurant events, but the content star is Siegel’s deeply personal writing, tackling topics like an ode to a longtime server or what makes a meal authentic.

B2B companies can set themselves apart with similar tactics—great design, content that can’t be found elsewhere, and expert perspectives. Email marketing company Litmus excels especially in its design, using color and graphics to make the newsletter easier to read and more visually compelling. Naturally, the content shines as well.

Litmus e-newsletter marketing

There’s a reason why the newsletter format appeals to such a variety of organizations and audiences. In a word: flexibility. E-newsletters provide a blank canvas for in-depth, unique stories: stories that wouldn’t work well on social but are nonetheless captivating. These stories—from informative and educational to deeply personal and conversational—help forge a personal, emotional connection with an audience, spurring engagement and community.

Expect to see more brands and publishers experimenting with newsletters in their content strategy. With more quality newsletters out there, the bar is also becoming higher for brands. Building a great newsletter can’t be an afterthought; brands will need to invest time and effort into making sure each newsletter looks spectacular and offers outstanding content. Without that care, it’s all too easy for users to click delete.

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Featured image attribution: Mathyas Kurmann

The post Email Newsletters Are Experiencing a Renaissance appeared first on The Content Standard by Skyword.

This paper has a text marketing editor (who compares the job to picking people up at a bar)

Every day as the clock ticks toward the German newspaper Süddeutsche Zeitung’s 5 p.m. print deadline, Jenny Buchholz sits at her desk in the heart of the paper’s Munich newsroom and reads through the stories that will be posted online that evening and in the next day’s print paper.

Buchholz is hunting for stories to highlight in a section on the paper’s homepage called Das Beste aus der Zeitung: “The best of the newspaper.”

Buchholz is SZ’s text marketing editor. Her mandate is to decide which stories will only be available to the paper’s premium subscribers, and which might appeal to potential subscribers if they’re packaged in a way that will convince people that they’re worth paying for. She works with Andrea Landinger, who helps refine the coverage to improve SEO and clickthrough rates.

SZ created the text marketing role to coincide with the launch of its digital subscription model, which it calls SZ Plus, in 2015.

The paper’s paywall strategy is somewhat complex. General interest stories from wire services are freely accessible on SZ’s site. A meter allows free access to 10 staff-written stories per week. Premium stories and digital editions of the paper, however, are only available to paying subscribers.

A full-access digital subscription costs €34.99 (about USD $40) per month. Readers can also purchase €1.99 day passes that give them access to the stories behind the paywall. A two-week trial is free.

The “best of the newspaper” section on the SZ homepage features four stories that are only accessible via SZ Plus. The stories Buchholz chooses for those slots are generally from that day’s paper, and go live at 7 p.m., coinciding with the release of SZ’s digital edition.

A separate SZ Plus page collects all the premium stories. The site features older stories that were popular and also lets readers search for stories or sort them by topic.

Buchholz looks to highlight longer stories that will be worth readers’ time nd that cover a variety of topics. She then writes a headline and chooses an image that will help the story stand out on the busy homepage. “I need this one article to be convincing and worth their while,” she said.

“I’m very interested in having people return. When I type in a teaser to stories, I’m not at all interested in overselling or in clickbaiting them into reading it, because the worst thing that can happen is that they buy the article because it sounds interesting and then they read it and go, ‘Well that wasn’t worth it.’ I’m really not interested in that happening. We’re not an Autobahn stop where people come and eat and the quality of food doesn’t matter because they’ll never be back.”

From the beginning, SZ viewed the text marketing role as one that needed to be in the newsroom. Buchholz sits near the paper’s top editors and regularly consults with them about what the newsroom has planned.

At WAN-IFRA’s Digital Media Europe conference in Copenhagen in April, SZ digital editor Stefan Plöchinger told me SZ purposefully structured the text marketing position in the newsroom so that it would fit into the newsroom’s workflows.

“If you start a subscription model, you have to have someone in the newsroom who is identifying with the subscription model,” he said. “We are trying to get the evolution of it going in the daily business of the newsroom.”

Buchholz works with staffers to write short teaser versions of SZ Plus stories that she also posts on the homepage to entice readers to buy access to the full version.

The job has a marketing aspect to it, as its name implies. Buchholz works closely with staffers on the business side of the organization, said Johannes Hauner, SZ’s head of digital marketing.

The budget for promoting stories on social platforms such as Facebook or via email campaigns comes from the marketing department, and working with the editorial team, Hauner said they’ll determine the best way to utilize that budget and which audiences they want to target.

SZ, for instance, will target stories to users with specific interests and also resurface timely archival content.

Buchholz also chooses up to 15 evergreen premium stories that are shown on rotation to un-logged-in readers when they try to read an SZ Plus story.

“One big difference between Jenny and me…is that she is a journalist who thinks very much in a marketing way, and I’m a marketer and I think in a journalistic way,” Hauner said. “She can write teasers in a very good way for marketing the articles. I couldn’t do that. That’s not my profession. That’s her quality. That’s very important. On the one hand we have to do it from the same point of view and the same way, and on the other hand it’s important that there’s a journalist who looks on the things we do and that there’s a marketer also. It has to be a very straightforward and together approach.”

SZ Plus had 55,247 subscribers in the first quarter of 2017, and while he provide specifics on conversion rates or how many daily passes the paper sells, Hauner said the paper looks at metrics both from outside platforms and its own website to analyze how it can improve how its pitches to would-be subscribers.

On Facebook, for instance, it wants to be able to target as many interested users as possible, without breaking the bank. “The cheaper it is in the target group you want to reach, the better,” he said.

But on its own site, SZ looks at how readers navigate its conversion funnel and interact with the paywall. The most important metric, Hauner said, is the number of subscribers, but another key data point the paper follows is how many people actually click on the subscription offers.

“If somebody pushes the button on the offer page to come into the funnel, that’s a very important click, in relation to the paid article’s total pageviews,” he said. “It represents the first attractiveness of that article.”

As part of this process, SZ regularly conducts A/B tests. For instance, it tested out different formats for the best-of section that highlights SZ Plus stories. It ultimately decided just to feature four stories a day, but Buchholz picks up to seven different stories to test out in that area, ultimately winnowing them down to four.

“We need A/B testing on a daily basis,” digital editor Plöchinger said. “That’s what e-commerce platforms do all the time, and that’s what we need to do as well.”

SZ ultimately sees the text marketing position as a way to reach readers and help maintain a sustainable digital business.

Often, the way that newspaper title and tease pieces is just “the equivalent of a person standing at the bar and just standing there, because they made their presence known,” Buchholz said. But there’s a better way to attract people: “I much more believe in eye contact, looking around, being a little more outgoing and trying to engage the audience.”

Photo by Felix Ro used under a Creative Commons license.

Trying to write a killer headline for social? Here are some of the most (and least) effective phrases

Jostling for readers for your listicle on Facebook? Aim for the number “10” in your headline.

Trying to promote a story on Twitter? Emotion-based appeals popular on Facebook don’t translate to Twitter.

Findings from a BuzzSumo trigram analysis of 100 million headlines published between March and May of this year confirms a lot about the clickbait-y, competitive publishing environment of social media.

The analysis reveals nothing particularly surprising, for instance, about the headline phrases that generated the most likes, shares, and comments: “Will make you” was by far the most successful phrase, and emotion-based appeals like “melt your heart” and “make you cry” also do well. (Also, we reported that 10 was the most common number for a BuzzFeed list way back in 2013.)

Publishers beware though: Facebook says its algorithm is cracking down again on clickbait in its News Feed.

Phrases that performed poorly on Facebook? “Control of your,” “work for you,” or “on a budget”— which apparently works well on Pinterest. Phrases that performed well on Facebook don’t work as well in Twitter headlines, where phrases that emphasize immediacy and analysis do best — “what we know,” “things to know,” “this is what.”

On Facebook, it’s also important to hit just the right headline length. Super short or super long headlines don’t appear to be effective. Posts between 12 and 18 words — and between 80 to 95 characters — get the most shares on Facebook.

This particular study draws its insights from some of the most shared stories on Facebook and Twitter, which include articles from major publishers like HuffPost and BuzzFeed; it’ll release separate headlines analysis for sharing business-to-business stories later in the year. You can read the entire post here.

As audience development grows, publishers question who should own it

Audience development has become core to how publishers scale and make money. But now the question facing publishers is how to ensure it serves all sides of the business, whose interests often conflict.

Once a role that mainly focused on SEO, audience development has become more complicated because of the explosion of ways publishers can find and distribute content, from their own platforms such as newsletters and apps to external ones such as social media outlets and bots.

At the most fundamental level, both the business and edit sides want to reach new and existing audiences. But from there the interests can diverge. Whereas the newsroom wants to maximize the reach and impact of its journalism, the sales side is rewarded for growing ad revenue, which could lead it to prioritize certain audience segments over others. And then there is driving subscriptions and marketing other products like events and commerce.

CNN’s finance vertical, CNNMoney, for example, commands higher ad rates than the parent site does because of its upscale audience, which could justify spending more to drive audience to that property, for example, said Chris Herbert, CNN’s svp of digital operations and strategy.

“[Journalists] want to get an important message out to as many people as possible,” Herbert said. “When you think about sales, scale is important, but we also recognize that we need to chase the right audience.”

It can go the other way, with the business side chasing growth that conflicts with editorial’s goals. Amy O’Leary, chief storyteller at viral site Upworthy, recalled one day back in the fall when fighting in Syria was getting worse.

“If we just had a strict growth strategy, maybe you’d do counter-programming — pull something positive from the archives,” she said. “But as the editor, I know that story has a ton of attention, and people care about what you can do to help. So we created an article about how to help, and it went viral because we know the work that resonates the most is what’s mission-driven.”

The case for editorial
Publishers are addressing these varying audience development needs in different ways. At many traditional and new media organizations alike, including The New York Times, The Washington Post and Upworthy, audience development still resides on the editorial side.

O’Leary makes the case that with social media often being the first place where people encounter a story, audience development should be as close to the editorial creation as possible. Once a week, her growth team provides editorial with reams of data on every story. That feedback informs editorial about what people are reading and sharing, and helps build muscle memory so it can deliver content that resonates again and again.

O’Leary said this doesn’t mean editorial is operating in a vacuum, ignorant of business concerns, though. For instance, the growth team knows long articles might make more sense to post on Facebook as Instant Articles, the platform’s fast-loading mobile articles feature, because the longer the article, the more ads can fit in it, which means more revenue per article.

“Savvy digital editors of the future understand the factors that drive their industry,” she said. “Part of my goal is not just to lead edit but to have an understanding of our business goals.” Having audience development outside of editorial also means “the newsroom loses a huge opportunity to learn. I wouldn’t want to give that up.”

Other organizations treat audience development as part of marketing or, more recently, revenue.

“This is the way of the future, I believe, as it starts to provide a bridge between different parts of the organization and encourages collaboration,” said Kunal Gupta, founder and CEO of Polar, a branded content platform. “Revenue needs to understand what is being worked on editorially, and editorial needs a feedback loop to understand what content drove what revenue.”

Gupta said that there’s no one right way for every media company. But he pointed out that while having audience development in edit can help editorial staff act quickly to promote content, edit can lack the skills needed to monetize content.

Cross-department solutions
To make sure they meet all business lines’ needs, other publishers have structured audience development to represent the multiple stakeholders in their organizations.

At 4-year-old conservative news site Independent Journal Review, audience development reports to Alex Skatell, the founder and CEO. Skatell said that since IJR is a young company in growth mode, audience development is more of a marketing function, focused on figuring out what its users look like. The editorial side isn’t operating in the dark, though, he said. “Our editors understand the platforms — it’s already part of their DNA.”

Elsewhere, audience development has a hybrid business-edit role.

When Bleacher Report started in 2008, the audience development goal was relatively simple: Get as many people as possible to come to the site. Now, audience growth is part of everyone’s job, and priorities have also changed to emphasize content that people want to share and reaches new audiences. To make sure their approaches are aligned, the department heads now get together and collaborate. To deepen that collaboration, Bleacher Report hired an svp of strategy, Keith Hernandez, formerly president of Slate, to act as the connective tissue between revenue and content. The goal is to make sure the company avoids situations where it’s just chasing pure scale rather than deepening the connection with its audience and reaching new ones.

“We’re in this era where it’s really exciting,” Bleacher Report president Rory Brown said. “You can reach so many more people, but the definition of audience is murkier than ever.”

At National Geographic, audience development became part of the digital team as part of a digital transformation that started last year, said Jonathan Hunt, the company’s new svp of digital strategy and audience development. Social and audience development used to be more of a support engine, but now, audience development gets involved at the beginning of the content, digital strategy and sales process to take advantage of Nat Geo’s huge social footprint, he said.

A recent example of this approach involved Nat Geo’s collaboration with Nike to promote a sub two-hour marathon, Breaking2. Hunt’s team got involved early on, sending a photographer popular on social media to cover the event and create social content for it, resulting in more than 37 million impressions.

When CNN created a new audience development team last year, it was made independent of sales and edit, with specialists who are embedded in those departments. “It shouldn’t be part of sales because you might end up in a situation where you’re only thinking about revenue to the exclusion of everything else,” Herbert explained. “If it’s only in edit, you’re going to focus on things besides what makes money.”

CNN execs said it believes its independent approach has paid off, pointing to its newsletter growth. Like many publishers, CNN has emphasized newsletters lately because its readers are more engaged than people who come through other channels. CNN data scientists analyzed subscriber data to identify segments of users by their engagement levels, and shared that data with newsletter writers and producers to help them understand their audiences and how they’re using the content. They also gave the data to sales so it could target marketers who are interested in reaching those specific audiences. In the last six months, CNN has more than tripled its newsletter subscribers, with one growing almost sevenfold.

“In the age we’re living in, having these barriers between the teams where they aren’t fluent in each other’s languages isn’t a sustainable model for journalism anymore,” Herbert said. “You ultimately want to have as cohesive a group as possible to make sure everything is aligned.”

The post As audience development grows, publishers question who should own it appeared first on Digiday.

Concentration spans drop when online ads pop up

Measurements of brain activity show emotional state and concentration are affected by intrusive online marketing:

“Two Polish researchers have shown that measurements of the brain’s electrical activity can be used to test the influence of intrusive online advertisements on internet users’ concentration and emotions. The exploratory study was conducted by Izabela Rejer and Jaroslaw Jankowski of the West Pomeranian University of Technology in Poland, and is published in Springer’s journal Cognitive Processing. …

Two main effects were observed for most subjects. First, the presence of online advertisements influenced participants’ concentration. This was deduced from the significant drop in beta activity that was observed in the frontal/prefrontal cortical areas. According to the researchers, this could indicate that the presentation of the advertisement induced a drop in concentration levels.

Secondly, the appearance of the advertisement induced changes in the frontal/prefrontal asymmetry index. However, the direction of this change differed among subjects, in that for some it dipped, and for others it increased. ”


Reference: Rejer, I. & Jankowski, J. (2017). Brain Activity Patterns Induced by Interrupting the Cognitive Processes with Online Advertising, Cognitive Processing DOI 10.1007/s10339-017-0815-8

You can call it hype — but Watson is getting marketers ROI

IBM CMO Rashmy Chatterjee is a featured speaker at MB 2017, July 11-12 in San Francisco. She’s among dozens of others from some of the most iconic brands who will be sharing how marketers are using AI within the broad marketing ecosystem to stay ahead. See the full roster of speakers here.

“AI, or cognitive computing, absolutely should be table stakes today,” says Rashmy Chatterjee, IBM’s North America CMO. “In the future, cognitive computing (AI) won’t even be an option anymore. You’ll use it as a matter of course.”

In her upcoming talk at MB 2017, “Applied AI for Real ROI,” she’ll break down the real-world examples that prove her statement out — like the five-fold increase in conversions that BMO (Bank of Montreal) achieved using strategies fueled by Watson, IBM’s powerful AI platform.

“BMO uses our client experience tools, and their conversion rate on mobile — from customer interest to actual business — went up from ten percent to 50 percent,” Chatterjee says. “With American Eagle, we’ve seen an almost 20 percent increase in mobile traffic because AI implementation dramatically increased their understanding of customer issues.”

Chatterjee has an unshakable focus on making IBM’s clients successful, and goes on to explain this goal is achieved by helping brands better understand their customers, discern context of action and queries,  provide multiple options to engage, respond to feedback quickly in a personalized way — and, ultimately, by enabling them to deliver an unmatched superior experience.

Enter Watson, IBM’s poster child for AI, which now has APIs that can discern tone, understand personality quirks, and learn where and how the client is seeking to be engaged, with real-time input from customers that is immediately actionable.

“Watson has a set of capabilities, and with each of them the goal is: Can we make this experience better for the client, and can we make them more successful in what they want to do?” Chatterjee says.

For instance, the Tone Analyzer capability uses linguistic analysis to detect communication tones in text to understand conversations and communications — allowing brands to respond to customer needs, worries and wants. Or to better analyze and understand what’s really behind the thousands of comments customers leave scattered across social media.

“We also use Tone Analyzer for customer experience assessments and customer support, and with this information, we keep getting better,” she adds. “We’re constantly asking, what does it mean, and how can we respond to it better?”

Then there’s Watson’s Personality Insights service which extracts personality characteristics based on a variety of written communications using customers’ social media entries, enterprise data, and other digital communications.

Try a demo here and Watson may tell you that “you are helpful and analytical,” and “your choices are driven by a desire for well being” (along with a much fuller description). Or you may learn from that “you are excitable and adventurous, eager to try new things.. and you tend to speak up and take charge of situations.”

By enabling companies to learn who their customers are as individuals, they can improve acquisition, retention, and engagement with highly personalized interactions.

Chatterjee points out that mobile is where these AI capabilities have the most potential to shine. Of course, the bar is high. Customers already expect to be able to do most transactions on mobile, and take things like location capabilities for granted.

“But what is the next frontier?” asks Chatterjee. “What are the next things we can do — through emotions, through tone, through personalities, through so many other technological capabilities that will create an even more differentiated client experience?”

Chatterjee will be speaking about how her teams are already making progress on this next frontier — and where it’s going next. You can register for MB 2017 right here.

The 7 most innovative mobile partners for retailers and publishers

Presented by Sailthru

While AR and VR are forecast to be the future of mobile, most retailers and publishers are still struggling with the basics. Yes, there are standouts like the oft-cited Sephora, T-Mobile, and now Target, which have amassed significant engaged mobile app audiences, but for most brands, we’re still at square one.

To start getting ahead, it pays to bring in the experts. Finding the right partner is critical to making sure that mobile initiatives fulfill their promise. But the range of agencies, technologies, development shops, and boutiques working with both large companies and ambitious startups to get the mobile experience right is beyond impressive — it’s overwhelming.

At Sailthru, we work with a full range of integration partners and agencies, and we’ve seen first-hand that each has something different, and unique, to offer. There’s no single partner or agency that’s going to be best for every single brand or project. That being said, there are a handful that we’ve seen consistently rise above the rest–the ones that have developed technologies that accelerate mobile revenue generation; the ones that produce great work, on time and on budget, and most important, leave a trail of satisfied customers in their wake.

These are the partners we’d turn to for strategy, inspiration, analytics, data management, messaging automation, or practically anything else.

Best data management layer: mParticle and Segment

When it comes to data management, the excellence of two particular firms demanded that we call a tie. Both mParticle and Segment are devoted to helping mobile marketers and technologists better consolidate and actually use their data. Segment and mParticle each provide a single API that can coordinate a company’s entire marketing stack, making it easier for marketers to add new partners and saving them from having to integrate multiple SDKs. Both Segment and mParticle have managed more than 100 integrations to date. No matter what providers you’re using, the chances are that mParticle and Segment are working to make your work better together.

mParticle customer portfolio: Bleacher Report, Starwood Hotels and Resorts, Seat Geek

Follow on twitter: @mParticles

Segment customer portfolio: Trunk Club, Breather, New Relic

Follow on twitter: @segment

Best mobile messaging and push notification platform: Carnival.io

Carnival.io’s mobile marketing suite includes push notifications, in-app messaging, and a rich customizable message center that allows marketers to incorporate customer behavior, location, and demographic data into their messaging. Sailthru acquired and fully integrated Carnival into it’s multichannel campaign suite because it’s the most marketer-friendly mobile platform around, decreasing reliance on technical resources for your mobile projects, while giving you the ability to easily connect your mobile app experience to email and web. Carnival works with the globe’s biggest brands with customers such as Sephora, BP, Six Flags, Penguin Random House, and more.

Customer portfolio: Air New Zealand, Oreo, Swish

Follow on twitter: @carnivalio

Get a demo 

Best mobile app strategy and development: Prolific

Prolific thinks big-picture and develops solutions neatly tailored to each client. That’s at least partly because founders Eric Weber and Bobak Emanian decided early on that they wanted their agency to be one of the best in the world, not the state or the region. The company, now based in Brooklyn, is uniquely focused on business outcomes, achieving them by using lean, cross-disciplinary teams and maintaining a focus on sustainability.

Customer portfolio: SoulCycle, Sephora, Saks Fifth Avenue, Old Navy

Follow on twitter: @weareprolific

Best deep linking between apps: Button

Button is designed to help apps integrate and play nicely together. It worked with Foursquare and Uber, for example, to allow someone browsing restaurants and clubs on Foursquare to tap an Uber button that would automatically call a car to bring them to their chosen location. The goal is to create a new platform, beyond Facebook and Google, that will help merchants acquire and quickly convert mobile-loving customers.

Customer portfolio: AirBnB, OpenTable, Uber

Follow on twitter: @button

Best attribution tracking: Appsflyer

For us, Appsflyer is the first choice in attribution tracking, helping marketers know which messages did the most to spur customers on to a buying decision. Appsflyer uses data such as the time of the ad interaction and the percentage of customers who saw a particular marketing message, to help figure out the relative importance of various messages, and to help marketers spend more on activities that actually bring in the best users.

Customer portfolio: Telefonica, Jet.com, ThredUp

Follow on twitter: @AppsFlyer

Best mobile analytics: Amplitude

Amplitude is at the forefront of a new wave of mobile analytics players. Amplitude offers a plethora of real-time charts and dashboards, cross-platform tracking, and plenty of scalability even for the largest customers. All of these tools can be made available across an organization, enabling business leaders and marketers to derive important insights without relying on already-overburdened analysts.

Customer portfolio: Square, Change.org, Instacart

Follow on twitter: @amplitudemobile

Jason Grunberg is VP of Marketing at Sailthru.

Sponsored posts are content produced by a company that is either paying for the post or has a business relationship with VentureBeat, and they’re always clearly marked. Content produced by our editorial team is never influenced by advertisers or sponsors in any way. For more information, contact sales@venturebeat.com.

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