Making Gains: Mobile Advertising

The buzz around the industry for the past 15 months has been the role of mobile ads in the marketing mix. My Webcomic client, Trilogy-Media, is a great candidate for mobile ads because of the rich media product they will unveil this month. The product, The Adjusted Webcomic, will introduce a soundtrack to enhance its science-fiction online comic series. Its target market, comic book enthusiasts, are good candidates for mobile ads given the upsurge in sales of mobile devices, from the iPad to iPhones. To promote its product, visual ads in the form of MMS messaging makes the most sense. But with the financial contraints of a start-up marketing budget, the strategy we seek must take cost into account. So our execution will involve finding low-cost mobile advertising through social media platforms, like Google and Facebook. Independent Webcomic publishers that sell banner ads will extend the reach on mobile devices with access to the Internet. So there is no reason to buy separate mobile advertising for small mobile campaigns. But there is a glitch in this process: the analytics. How can you differentiate from the click-throughs whether your prospective customer came from a mobile version of the platform or from a desktop? I suspect there is no way to make that distinction without paying handsomely for it. So for small-budget clients, measuring ROI for mobile advertising is only effective with text or SMS campaigns. One alternative for measuring the effectiveness of mobile advertising with rich-media (MMS) is to run a separate mobile-only banner campaign using one social media platform. Stay tuned.


QR-code: Just because it’s cool?

QR codes, or Quick Response codes, admittedly were hardly on my radar six months ago. But it only took seeing one of the pixelized codes on the back of a Google sales executive’s business card during a recent convention to make me re-visit it as a marketing tool. Communications World published an article about the increasing popularity and uses of the codes in March. But I had not seen them in use first-hand until the small business convention and the direct mail insert I received from a local printing company. That was enough to send me searching for more information about the QR codes and how they can be used in a marketing campaign.

The first reason I consider using new technology is simply because I believe in innovation. New translates to being forward-thinking and creative. Trends, however, come and go. It is important for marketing communication strategists to analyze how we use new technology before we put it in our marketing mix for a client or cause.

Part of the analysis process for integrating new technology puts audience needs at center stage. With QR codes, your audience must have a cell phone with a camera to translate the embedded link or message to the phone. Most people have cameras in their phones, but not everyone. The World Edition of some Blackberrys have no cameras. Of those who have camera phones, how many of them have data packages to access the Internet or check their SMS messages? In considering whether to use Quick Response Codes in a marketing campaign, here are three audience filters I would use before putting them into play.

Is the audience high-technology savvy? If the answer is yes, the audience might be good candidates for offering QR codes as an information dissemination tool.

Are the end users in need of updated or rapidly changing information from a sole source with unique information for their needs? Two scenarios come to mind. In the first, the audience is comprised of air travelers who have boarding passes for a flight. They can capture the QR before leaving for the airport to find out if a flight is cancelled or on time. In the other case, a coupon update for a fast food chain might be worth checking to see if the latest is available for download. In this case, the customer may have an outdated coupon for one offering, but the coupon has a QR that when captured, provides the current coupon of the week or period.

The last filter is audience interaction. Is the audience confined to a small area or group gathering, such as a convention or spread out in rural homes? While QR codes have been used in both instances of audience interaction, their use must be tailored for the group dynamics of the intended audience. At a convention, the sharing of contact information through use of QR codes is fueled by the conversation among a tight-knit group. In a rural area, instructions may have to be spelled out about how to use the QR codes and why.

Based upon my own filter analysis, I believe the Webcomic community that I am helping a client reach might be perfect for QR codes. Comics fans pass at least two of the three filters because they tend to be tech-savvy, and they gather in book stores tailored for comics (or go to comics conventions). Posters and post cards promoting the Webcomic could use QR-codes to drive users to the client’s Web site instantly with the click of a camera. Will they deliver? Stay tuned.

A quick study on QR-codes can be found at

Social Media, No Small Business

National Small Business Week Logo

Cynical readers would be correct to retort under their breath “no kidding” about the widely known fact that social media is no small business. After all, this was the week Time magazine put Facebook center stage with its in-depth look at the mega social media platform’s privacy transgressions. But my focus this Tuesday was the Social Media Forum at the National Small Business Week Conference at the Mandarin Oriental Hotel in Southwest DC. I went because I always learn some new insight when I attend these free social media forums and webinars. Besides that, I believed that I might gain new insights that could assist with a start-up Webcomics website marketing plan that primarily uses social media to create buzz before its launch this summer. The panel and the small businesses in the audience delivered much more than expected.

Here are the social media insights for marketing small businesses I mined from the forum’s panel:

Think of social media investments to gain customer loyalty and promote transparency in terms of not just ROI, but ROTI (return on time invested.)” –Brian Moran, President, Veracle Media, and moderator for the forum

The bricks to clicks social media platform Yelp is the preferred social media platform for most retail businesses across the country. Businesses on average are spending about $3.60 per fan a year with Yelp.
-–Luther Lowe, business outreach manager for Yelp

Don’t just leave it to the interns. They may not know any more than you do. There was much discussion from the panel and audience about assuming that social media is a young professional’s province. Rather, the consensus was that social media marketing success requires a progressive learning curve from anyone who embraces it, at any age. Social media should be managed as part of a small business’ overall strategic marketing mix. This resonated, especially given anecdotal testimony from one company that adopting social media helped grow business by 30 percent.

Intuit is researching cloud analytics and integration into business ledgers. That means Intuit may soon help businesses analyze how much direct revenue comes as a result of email and other social media campaigns, according to panelist Angus Thomson, head of Intuit’s new social media division. Intuit’s entry into the business analytics side of social media portends social media’s share of the business marketing mix could be huge in short order. (Another sign: Microsoft’s big footprint, integrating social media into Outlook 2010.)

Young consumers are more tolerant of interruptions. That research tidbit from Small Business columnist Rieva Lesonsky indicates online entertainment businesses (like my client’s) may find success with intermittent ads and/or donation offers, especially among younger fans accustomed to mobile communication venues.

Outside of these social media info nuggets, small businesses made clear most are struggling to survive and keenly exploring how creatively they can use the new network of platforms that encompass social media to pull them through.

Social Media_Boom or Bust?

On King Day, I decided I needed to balance cultural reflection and community service with communication best practices for economic gain. So my schedule was rather eclectic I’d say. The morning schedule included a Webinar by Social Media Magic, while the afternoon was consumed with MLK speeches, good food and by-law revisions for The Young Masters, an youth arts advocacy non-profit I support.

I was grateful I made time for the social media Webinar. While most of us know about Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn, I now know that Fastpitch!, Biznik and Plaxo offer major business and PR advantages. The social media info nuggets discerned from this 90-minute session merit sharing. Heard before, but worth repeating: social media can hurt business, if it is not focused. That means rather than hiring an intern to learn on the job, hire a nouveau expert to execute specific social media-related tasks. The hourly model apparently is dead or dying when it comes to social media, which can take the unfocused worker on a journey that saps the employer’s money without results. Other nuggets of knowledge from the Social Media Magic Webinar:

*Use Twitter as a search engine to identify prospects
*Use Fastpitch! to interest reporters on business news
*Shop around before paying for Social Media Training or certification
*LinkedIn Company Websites reap more engagement when they are engaging

What I appreciated about Social Media Magic’s Webinar was that it was focused on business needs, rather than being about the aimless community watering holes that connect old classmates or neighbors. At its best, social media can raise thousands of dollars for nameless earthquake victims in Haiti. At its worst, it can suck precious time away from the unfocused with little return.

Pitching Backpack Reporters

Panel on backpack reporting

Panel on backpack reporting (L-R) Audrey Barnes (MSJ '82) WUSA-TV; Matt Ford (MSJ '06) Associated Press; Courtney Dunn (MSJ '06) formerly with WBOY-TV; and Brittany Morehouse (MSJ '03).

Backpack TV reporters may be the hardest-working journalists in the business these days. Some like the work, others bemoan the trade-offs that come with adapting to a news business that’s undergone pretty major sea changes.  For some, working in TV news is becoming like that spouse whose jokes don’t quite cut it the way they used to. You gotta love them.

Why else would journalists lug equipment, make-up and notepad in a backpack and cover between one and eight stories a  day (if they land in a smaller DMA).  I remember covering three radio stories a day for WHUR-FM for a time, and I felt like a dishrag by day’s end.  So now that I’m on the pitching end of the communications food chain, I went to my alma mater’s graduate school, hoping to gain a bit of insight about the life of a modern TV reporter.  Of course, my motivation was to learn how to better pitch them and build rapport. 

I didn’t learn that they were busy as heck because convergence of media has them working like what a CNN  editor called  “human Swiss Army knives.”  I already knew that.  But listening to their passion, frustration and aspirations helped me to pinpoint where a PR pro might be supportive.  What is most critical for backpack journalists is time and organization. For PR professionals, that means giving them fast facts about your story and leaving the boilerplate on your Web site, not your press release.  If you don’t have facts about spot news to give them, pitch them well in advance about an enterprising story they might offer an editor that involves your cause or client. If you do have facts to provide, or a statement about a developing story, send it to them using Twitter and AP mobile.  In the age of media convergence, all information should be accessible in multiple formats.  Even Medill recognizes the informative panel about backpack journalism could have been hashtagged for Twitter and recorded for YouTube and its Web site

Finally, appeal to a TV reporter’s  journalistic passion. Most reporters are looking for feedback and recognition for consequential work.  Comment on their blog and offer resources that provide perspective and insight into issues they cover.  As hard as they work on a daily basis, they can’t always offer the analysis of stories they might like.  But they want to do so.   Appeal to that side of their journalistic sensibilities, and they’ll likely give your story serious consideration when you pitch. You’ll have the satisfaction that you have helped a journalist with a job that’s often satisfying, but getting harder every day.