Posts Tagged ‘Spur Interactive’

Social Media: Shiny Object or Killer App?

July 28th, 2009

shiny objectWhile preparing for an interview I was reviewing questions I received from the journalist. One question was “how does your firm leverage social media?” It seems that social media is the latest shiny object that is on the wish list of most brand marketers.  Yet if you ask them why they need it, you’re likely to get a pithy, high level response such as “because we want to engage and interact with our customers.”  Ask how they plan to do that and you’ll often get blank stares.

Don’t get me wrong – I’m a huge fan of social media and I believe it is a killer app for many companies. This is especially true for professional services firms like mine.  At the same time, I frequently see a lack of planning, coordination and understanding of how to best use social media to achieve marketing objectives.  So now let’s go back to the opening question…

How do we use social media? We work in an industry where the cobblers kids (sans shoes) run rampant.  And for the most part this is fine; we can be great media planners and campaign managers, even if we don’t do a lot of advertising ourselves. However, when it comes to social media, I believe we have to lead by example.

If you are reading this, you may know that I blog, twitter, slideshare, facebook, link in, stumble, digg and tag things that are delicious.  Yes, it takes time, but I enjoy it. But above all, I do it because it creates value for my personal and agency brands. Through my investment in social media, I’ve expanded our network of partners, booked speaking opportunities, built awareness for our brand and generated several new client opportunities.

Social media can be a great platform for most businesses.  But as a professional services firm, social media offers some additional benefits that one could argue make it a killer app for marketing purposes.  In my world, the #1 benefit of social media is that it provides a platform for demonstrating thought leadership.

It’s important to remember that social media is a platform, not a message.  While awareness and visibility are great benefits of social media, they don’t build your brand.  You can get great visibility with a flurry of self-promoting posts and annoying solicitations for your services, but you aren’t building credibility.  You can use social media to connect with business acquaintances, recruit employees and show the world that you are a forward-thinking firm, but it probably won’t matter to clients. In my opinion, the true value of social media for professional service firms is the ability to demonstrate thought leadership on a large scale that gets even bigger if you have something unique and valuable to say.

Here’s another way to look at it: any firm can hire a web site copy writer to create a compelling message that says who you are, what you do, how you differentiate and why clients choose you.  While this used to be a key factor in engaging visitors, clients do not make decisions based on your home page. Case studies are great but we all know they present an air-brushed image of the results you produced for a client. On the other hand, a blog or tweet stream provides a relatively unfiltered view into how you think and how you act.  If you routinely produce strategic insights, unique perspectives and practical knowledge that are perceived to be of value to your clients, you can establish credibility and thought leadership in their eyes.  Clients hire consultants, agencies, bankers and lawyers because of their people.  Social media enables you to build your brand by showing off your greatest assets in a way that is much more transparent and authentic than it used to be.

In the past we relied on the static html, flash intros, polished copy and powerpoints to educate clients on who we are and how we can help them.  Blogs, Twitter, Facebook, Slideshare, LinkedIn and others now offer us a much more effective and efficient means for demonstrating thought leadership, regardless of your size, budget or location.  It’s not often that those of us in client services can point to a competitive advantage that we enjoy over other types of businesses.  But in a world where clients are seeking knowledge, insight and trusted advice, the social web gives us a unique opportunity to show them what we have to offer.

I’d love to hear from other service providers on this topic.  Comments are welcome!

Steve Latham
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Online Audiences (Interactive Musings 1.3)

July 8th, 2009

Welcome to Interactive Musings 1.3, the latest summary of stories that I thought would be of interest to those who online marketing. This edition is dedicated to Audiences – where all marketing plans begin.   I hope you find it to be informative. Feel free to share and comment!

Kids Flock to the Web (AdWeek)
To no one’s surprised, Nielsen Online confirmed that kids are going online at a much faster rate than the rest of us.  While the online universe has grown by only 10% in the past 5 years, the kids’ Web universe has grown 18%. As of late, the kids 2-11 audience reached 16 million, or 9.5% of active online users.  Kids are practically living online, spending nearly 11 hours a month in 2009.
What Men Do Online (eMarketer)
If you are wondering how man use the Internet, check out the eMarketer report. Don’t worry
it’s rated G, but if you market to dudes (or just wonder what we are really doing when we say
we are working late) take a look.

Marketers Target the Over 50 Set (NY Times)
“For decades, older consumers were largely shunned by marketers because they were deemed less wealthy, less likely to try new products and less willing to change brands. Not any longer…

A Fresh Look at 50 (Mediapost)
It seems that 50 is different than it used to be. Interesting article on the 44-54 age group (aka cuspers, young boomers), the transition they are going through and how to market to them. A must read for anyone seeking to engage this group.

Seniors On The Web!
Latest studies show that 45% of 70-75 age group is online (as well as 56% of 65-70 year olds). The web is becoming a bonanza for marketers targeting seniors. If this is your audience, you need to get with the program. For more info see the research brief.

That’s all for this edition. Since this is an interactive blog, you are invited to share your thoughts, questions or comments. Just keep it clean and constructive. You can also share this, digg it, or whatever floats your social networking boat!

Steve Latham
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Social Media Roundup (Interactive Musings 1.2)

June 29th, 2009

Last week I put together a summary of stories that I thought would be of interest to those who are in the interactive marketing industry.  Here are some other clips relating to Social Media that I think are interesting and informative.  Hope you enjoy.  Feel free to share and comment!

UniLever CMO Throws Down the Social Media Gauntlet
Takeaways from speech recently made by UniLever’s CMO about the importance of Social Media to brands. Includes his “5 New Rules of Marketing”. Great to see one of the world’s largest companies embracing social media.  I hope they can make it work!

Facebook Overtaking MySpace
Facebook is now the most trafficked global social network. Claiming 200 million users, it now reaches all demos and ages. Now it needs to figure out how to make money in a way that doesn’t infuriate its large and vocal community.

Facebook Grows Up Fast!
Glad to know that my group (26-44) accounts for 41% of all Facebook users. But surprised to find women over 55 are the fastest growing group on Facebook. Will being friended by your mom make you leave Facebook? Maybe… or maybe not. I think the new design is a bigger risk.

Teens on Social Networks
This just in: teens are heavy users of social networks! Okay you may know that. But did you know that 60% acknowledged that the things friends wrote in their profiles could harm their careers and that 38% said they regretted some of the items that had already appeared on their pages. Hopefully they will learn from public examples of how your personal views can blow up in your face… Like it did for this chucklehead!

Mommy Bloggers On the Rise! (AdWeek)
At the “Meet the 21st Century Mom” event, released results from a 25,000 person survey showing that 63% of women reported being active on social networks (vs. 11% in 2006).  Women with new babies cut back on media consumption by as much as three hours, with print taking the biggest hit. According to the report, 49 percent of respondents claim to read magazines less after giving birth, and 46 percent said the same about their newspapers.

How Edelman Manages Mommy Bloggers (AdAge)
Great interview with Edelman Chicago’s senior VP for consumer brands social media, Danielle Wiley on how they manage 2.0 digital (aka Social Media) practices and strategies for big name clients. I especially like their views on refusing to pay bloggers to write favorable reviews of their clients’ products.  I wish more agencies upheld the same standards.

Twitter Soars, but Does It Stick? (AdWeek)
Pop quiz – how many users will be on Twitter by 2010? Answer: a lot! The good folks at eMarketer report that 18 million of my closest friends (10% of Internet users) will be on Twitter by 2010 (read the article). If Ashton Kutcher has 1.5 million followers and Oprah is gaining ground with 700,000, the number may actually be higher. However… the jury is out as to how many will actually stay on Twitter. Nielsen recently reported that Twitter’s audience retention is only 40% – meaning more than 60% of its users fail to return the following month (read the article). So will Twitter last or is it a flash in the pan? I believe you can make a case for either outcome.

7 Marketing Mistakes to Avoid on Twitter
Good article by Rodney Rumford (hola So Cal!). Or you can eliminate the “don’ts” and learn 7 Tips for Succes on Twitter. Either way it’s a good way to learn how to use Twitter as a branding channel.

Be Careful What You Tweet!
You can’t help but laugh at the irony of this story. A social media consultant may have ruined his career with one errant tweet (if you haven’t heard about the FedEx / Memphis story, click the link above). The lesson: be careful what you tweet. Anything and everything you write is public, and it may be taken out of context.

All for now folks! Please share your thoughts, questions or comments. Just keep it clean and constructive. And if you like what you read, please share it with others!

Steve Latham
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Online Media and Markets (Interactive Musings 1.1)

June 22nd, 2009

Like many, I receive numerous industry email newsletters every day.  I tend to skim each edition and see if there’s anything worth noting or acting upon.  I thought others might like to read the cliff’s notes and take a look at what I think are the most interesting / relevant notes for my business.  So… here goes!

Internet Accounts for 33% of Daily Media Consumption (Pew Research)
According to Pew Research, U.S. adults have nearly doubled their daily use of the Internet. The average U.S. adult now spends 3.8 hours per day on the Internet, compared to 2.1 hours per day in 2006 (81% increase). The Internet now represents 32.5% of the typical “media day” for all U.S. adults when compared to daily exposure to newspaper, radio, TV and outdoor advertising. Even those who are considered heavy newspaper readers spend about as much time online today as the typical U.S. adult. According to the report, heavy newspaper readers, those who spend more than one hour per day reading, spend 3.7 hours online.  Yet, most marketers allocate only 8-10% of their ad budgets to the Web.  This is a big disconnect and a significant opportunity for marketers who care about maximizing return on ad spend. It’s pretty simple – spend your money where you will get the best ROI.  I wish more understood this.

Internet Ad Spending Stands Alone in 2009 Forecast (Mediapost)
In short, online is the only medium that will see more revenue in 2009.  And Search is main reason, growing 9% (display will shrink 1.2% – a buyers market, see my recent note on this). Notable quote: “The internet is the only medium expected to actually attract higher ad expenditure in 2009, thanks to its accountability and innovation in ad formats”.  I’m glad to be on this side of the media wave.

CMOs Not Happy with Digital (Businessweek)
“Although digital is the best use of scarce ad dollars in the downturn, the segment needs better tools to demonstrate ROI” – Hallelujiah!!! If you can’t measure it, you can’t manage it.  By the way this is where we excel.  If you need help measuring or optimizing ROI from online media, give us a shout.

Brand Mentions Preferred Over Ads (eMarketer)
Not surprisingly, consumers assign more weight to a brand being mentioned in an article vs. an advertisement. Not sure how this constitutes as breaking news – I thought everyone knew that.  What WAS interesting was the “Email Offer” was a close #2 to Brand Mentions, and above #3 Search Engine listing.  While somewhat surprising, we continue to have successin promoting client offers through email (for the record, not all email marketers are spammers. Like anything, there’s a right and a wrong way to do it).

Why Marketers Want You to Click, Not Call (AdAge – requires registration)
Pizza giants sell 20-30% of deliveries online. They want to increase this to 50% – here’s how they are doing it (includes “5 tips to get more people to purchase your product online”). Useful for B2B (re-orders) as well as B2C.

Display Ads Lift Search (Mediapost)
If you want more ROI from your search campaign, display ads can help you get there and here’s why: display advertising creates demand and awareness of your brand.  When consumers are ready to buy they will likely use a search engine to find a provider. If they recognize your brand, you’ll benefit from higher click-through and conversion rates.  Yet most marketers manage these interdependent channels separately and they often cut display ads that create valuable awareness but not direct leads.  This is why you need expert tracking and analysis. If you’d like to learn more, I know a great agency that would love to help you.

Why Email Marketing Deserves More Respect (iMedia)
I often say that email marketing is the most profitable way to drive repeat business, yet is the most underutilized tool in most marketer’s kits.  Here’s a good article from Simms Jenkins (howdy ATL!) on why you can’t afford to overlook your email marketing program.

Five Things Agencies Want from Clients (iMedia)
This is a MUST READ if you are an in-house or client side marketer. Forget the agency implications – these are basic principles every brand / client side marketer needs to grasp.

Venture Investments drop 50% in First Quarter (Wall St. Journal)
It’s a tough time to start a new business – especially if it requires millions in funding to get off the ground. On the other hand, it’s a great time to be an angel investor!

Ogilvy Looks to Asia for Growth (Wall St. Journal)
I think about Asia as a vacation destination.  Apparently China and India are growth markets for advertising as well.  Hmmm… makes me wonder…

All for now – please feel free to comment, share and subscribe via RSS.  Thanks for reading!

Steve Latham
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Online Demand Generation – Strategy and Metrics

May 28th, 2009
Online Media Funnel

Online Media Funnel

Last week I spoke at the Online Marketing Summit’s tour stop in Houston on Demand Generation.  I was scheduled to speak in Dallas and Austin as well, but an unexpected foot injury / surgery sidelined me from travel.

At OMS I unveiled a new presentation that addresses the #1 objective of most marketers: generating leads, sales and other measurable results from online media.  The presentation “Online Demand Generation: Strategy and Metrics” is embedded below for your viewing pleasure; you can also find it on slideshare.  I started by defining “demand generation” (broader and more upscale than “lead gen”), the components of a demand generation program and various roles of online media. I also introduced engagement paths and the importance of defining the right metrics for success.

Also included is a practical methodology for measuring ROI and indexing performance against the market.  As a bonus, I also included my view of the 10 worst and best practices for managing campaigns (would really like your feedback on these!)

I hope you’ll take this information and use the insights to take your business or agency to the next level. And as always, comments are welcome!

Steve Latham

Ad Pricing Revolution… or Evolution?

April 27th, 2009

Let’s get ready to rumble!!!

There’s a big debate raging in the interactive world about whether advertisers should purchase online ads from Premium Content Providers or their customers / competitors, the Ad Networks. Here’s a quick breakdown:

Premium Content Sites (aka Publishers) include,,,,, and countless others who have literally spent billions to provide great content.  The premium content, combined with the rigid advertising guidelines offers highly valued placement and brand-enhancing context for advertisers to reach and engage audiences.  But the premium content sites are relatively expensive and the reach beyond the site or small group of sites is limited.

Ad networks, which include, google, valueclick, tremor media, specific media, audience science and 24/7 real media, to name a few, aggregate media across thousands of sites and apply targeting techniques to reach your audiences. Through an ad network you can serve ads to the same person (or group of persons) across multiple sites.  The ability to target and re-serve ads is very valuable, especially now that we know that impressions create awareness which improves online conversion rates. Because ad networks buy remnant inventory from premium content sites for a fraction of what advertisers pay, they generally offer much lower cpm rates, allowing advertisers to get more reach for their limited dollars.

Both ad networks and premium content sites have strong arguments as to why you should buy their media over others.  In recent days, a flurry of articles and points of view have emerged.  Here’s a summary:

The case for ad networks is made in “A Pricing Revolution Looms in Online Advertising” ( “Demographic profiling and behavioral targeting by such companies as Google, Quantcast, and ValueClick is slashing ad costs and threatening Web publishers” To read the article visit

The case for premium content sites is made in today’s rebuttal “A Pricing Revolution May Loom, But Context And Content Still Rule” (MediaPost). Lower-costs seem appealing in the post-recession world, but short-term savings are short-sighted. For advertisers who care about brands”. The article then lists several considerations that must be addressed when you get in bed with the devil (aka ad networks).

So which is right for your brand or your client?  Like most things in life… it depends.  My take is that the “right” medium depends on your brand, audience, objectives and budget. Each medium has its pros and cons.  While context and content are very important, so is cost and the ability to target.  If brand protection is paramount, go with the content sites. If you are seeking to maximize lead generation at the lowest possible cost per lead, start with the ad networks (in conjunction with paid search, of course).  Over time, their offerings will look more and more alike.

As AdAge reported in the 4/20/09 digital issue, “large publishers are looking more like ad networks” and ad networks are starting to look more like publishers by picking up premium content inventory and focusing on targeting and brand safety.  Over time I expect we’ll see these frenemies become more and more alike.  And who’s to say an ad network won’t become an attractive extension for a traditional publishing company seeking to expand its digital footprint (e.g. would Valueclick make sense as a subsidiary of News Corp?).

Media will continue to evolve and the mix of players will continue to shift.  But that’s what makes this such a fun industry and an exciting time to be in the digital marketing arena… even in this crummy recessionary market.

Comments are welcome!!!

p.s. – my apologies to those ad networks and content sites I omitted in this update.  I just wrote what came to mind.. if you were excluded you may want to invest in some online advertising.  I know a great boutique interactive shop that would love to help 🙂

Seniors on the Web!

March 3rd, 2009

I often hear marketers quip “our audiences (seniors) are not online”.  The presumption is that seniors are too old to use the computer and they would somehow get lost while navigating the Web.  (Really?)  At the same time, I am always hearing about how someone’s 92 year old grandmother is an email fanatic and a Facebook junkie.  I tend to believe this is becoming the norm vs. the exception.

MediaPost recently reported the results of a Pew Internet Research study that clearly debunks they myth that senior citizens are not online.  Surveys show that the graying of the Internet is a powerful trend. View the article!

According to the Pew stats, there are 20 million internet users over the age of 65.  And almost 80% of them use email.  The top 3 uses of the Web are:

1. Email
2. Search
3. Researching Health information

Below is a nifty chart provided by eMarketer.  As you can see, recent retirees are using the Web en masse, and their elders are not far behind.

Surprised? Baffled? Or do you already know this? For more exciting stats view the entire report.

And Grandma if you are reading this, I love you!

Comments are welcome!

Steve Latham

Online S&M (Strategy and Metrics)

February 8th, 2009

Last week I had the pleasure of speaking at the Online Marketing Summit’s annual conference in San  Diego.  In my presentation Online S&M (Strategy and Metrics) I focused on 3 things:

1. The need for an integrated, strategic plan (one-off efforts often fail)
2. A foundational approach to Interactive in troubling times (focus on tactics with highest ROI including site usability, analytics, search and email)
3. How to measure and assess performance (results, ROI). This includes a new approach to measuring your results against the Google index for your search terms (must read!).

While there were no standing O’s and cell phone waving, I received some great feedback and was quoted in B to B magazine.  If you couldn’t make OMS, or if you missed my presentation you can find it on Slideshare.

Feel free to share with others.  And please comment below!

The Truth About Display Advertising

January 16th, 2009

If you are reading this, you’re probably expecting to another pundit to start bashing display ads.  Sorry to disappoint you but I’m actually going to defend the proverbial step-child of online media (while 3rd party email as the proverbial adopted child).  If you are a step (as I am) or adopted (as my sister is) don’t take it personally.  This is just a metaphor…

Now back to my rant… with the meltdown in the economy and paralysis that has gripped consumers, display ads are taking a beating due to their perceived lack of effectiveness. According to AdWeek, “Forrester Research expects display ads to come under the scrutiny of tight-fisted marketers uncertain of their effectiveness.”  IMHO, the experts are taking a myopic view of the value of display.

I am not proposing that you invest heavily in display as your first buy.  Your first online ad dollars should go to paid search; that’s where you’ll get the biggest bang for you buck.  But if you are in a limited category or geographic area, Search alone may not help you make your revenue goals.  There are only so many searches every day.  And these days there are fewer than there used to be.

This is where Display ads can work very well.  As we’ve seen firsthand, adding display to your mix, after optimizing paid search, is an effective way to increase awareness and create demand that eventually results in more site traffic, leads and sales.  But unlike Search, you probably won’t see the direct link via click-thrus and conversions.  Just as billboards (though we may hate them) create awareness, so do banner ads (when properly targeted.  While Display ads may create awareness, they usually produce poor click-thru rates and even lousier conversion rates.  Most often, the impact of a good display campaign will show up in the form of a lift in branded searches, SEM click-thru rates and direct visits.  So you have to take a holistic view. Here is a chart (from a 1/09 client report) that demonstrates this concept:

For this campaign we quickly learned that search impressions were very limited. So to supplement search we started running display ads (4 weeks ago).  While some ads had decent CTRs, most of the increase in traffic came from Direct navigation, branded search and paid search.  As shown, the increase in impressions had a direct impact on site traffic. As long as conversion rates hold up, we’ll continue to invest in display. And given that Display Ad prices are falling faster than Wal-Mart closeout prices, this should become an even more attractive opportunity over time.

Caveat Emptor!  While Display does have a place in the mix, you have to make smart buys.  You need to target (demo, geo, behavioral, contextual, etc.), cap frequency and daily impressions, specify where they will (and will NOT) be served and have a good ad serving / web analytics system for reporting.  If not planned and executed well, it can be a waste of time and money.  But if done correctly, you can expand your category, increase awareness and preference, and extend ROI from your scarce marketing budget.

If you’d like to discuss or debate, comment below, contact me or look me up on Facebook or Twitter.


Goal Setting for 2009

January 4th, 2009

Since it’s a new year, it’s a great time to think about our goals, both business and personal.  Our professional success is impacted not only by what happens at work, but how we manage our personal lives are well.  The more organized and on track we are in our personal lives, the more effective we can be at work.

Most are aware that people who write down and review their goals are much more likely to be successful than those who do not. But if you’re like me, it’s probably been a while since you did it.

Last year I decided to write down my goals, review them regularly, and track my accomplishments.  While 2008 was a pretty tough year (thanks recession!), I feel it was one of my most productive and fulfilling years to date.  I achieved most of my goals for 2008, and the gratification that came from it helped me deal with many unexpected challenges.  I believe my focus on goals, combined with frequent review and assessment, made a big difference for me in 2008.

If you’d like to do the same, feel free to use my Goal Setting Template (click to download via google docs – select “choose other application” for .doc version).  The categories are organized based on what made sense to me.  But everyone is different so feel free to edit as you see fit.

In addition to defining your goals, you should also define the steps required to achieve each goal.  Goals are great but you need an action plan.  For each goal you can add the steps for achieving it.

Next, you’ll also see some activity logs you can use to track how often you review your goals as well as your progress in achieving them. Each time you review your goals record the date.  Each time you achieve a goal mark it down.  Track your progress against each goal throughout the year.

Print and keep your goals and activity logs and keep them handy. I keep mine by my bed so I can review them each morning.

Writing down your goals is an important first step.  Of equal importance is that you review them frequently. It’s easy to get caught up in the day-to-day; if you review your goals at least once a week, you can rise above the daily hassles and keep your eye on the prize.

I hope this is helpful and that you see great results in 2009.  Feel free to share with others and let me know what you think!

Best wishes for 2009!